Men’s Mental Health: ‘Man up’ Is Not The Answer

Among 360 respondents with direct experience of depression or suicidal ideation, more male than female respondents said that they would feel embarrassed about seeking formal treatment for depression.

In developed countries people die three times by suicide, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report from 2018.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also cited 2018 data, noting that in that year alone, “Men died by suicide 3.56 [times] more often than women” in the United States.

And Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit, reference data suggesting that more than 6 million men in the U.S. experience symptoms of depression each year, and more than 3 million experience an anxiety disorder.

Despite these staggering figures, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) report that men are less likely than women to have received formal mental health support in the past year.

In their 2018 report, the WHO emphasize that cultural stigma surrounding mental health is one of the chief obstacles to people admitting that they are struggling and seeking help.

And this stigmatization is particularly pronounced in men.

“Described in various media as a ‘silent epidemic’ and a ‘sleeper issue that has crept into the minds of millions,’ with ‘chilling statistics,’ mental illness among men is a public health concern that begs attention.”

Thus begins a study from The University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada, published in 2016 in Canadian Family Physician.

Its authors explain that prescriptive, ages-old ideas about gender are likely both part of the cause behind the development of mental health issues in men and the reason why men are put off from seeking professional help.

Another study from Canada — published in Community Mental Health Journal in 2016 — found that, in a national survey of English-speaking Canadians, among 541 respondents with no direct experience of suicidal ideation or depression, more than one-third admitted to holding stigmatizing beliefs about mental health issues in men.

And among this group, male respondents were more likely than females to hold views such as: “I would not vote for a male politician if I knew he had been depressed,” “Men with depression are dangerous,” and “Men with depression could snap out of it if they wanted.”

Among 360 respondents with direct experience of depression or suicidal ideation, more male than female respondents said that they would feel embarrassed about seeking formal treatment for depression.

One contributor who spoke to Medical News Today also pointed out that it is not easy for men to be open with their peers about mental health struggles.

“Often, the relationships there are tied into the game and little else away from the pitch, which is a real shame,” he added.

According to Prof. Norman Bruce Anderson, former CEO of the American Psychological Association — in the U.S., Black and Latino men are six times more likely to be murdered than their white peers.

Prof. Anderson also notes that American Indian men are the demographic most likely to attempt suicide and that Black men are most likely to experience incarceration.

According to Dr. Octavio Martinez Jr., executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the effect of these disparities on the mental health of people of color and of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds is “a double whammy.”

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