Chances are a man or two in your life could greatly benefit from therapy but doesn’t seek the help they need. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. That’s because men are significantly less likely to get help from a mental health professional. 

And it’s literally killing them. 

Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Yet 94% of surveyed U.S. adults think suicide can be prevented. How? By taking action. By talking about it. Encourage friends, loved ones, and coworkers to get help if needed. And by supporting them along the way, continuously letting them know that seeking help is in no way a sign of weakness. 

Yes, we’re focusing on men’s mental health because it’s June, which is men’s mental health month. But the reality of the matter is that men’s mental health is a silent epidemic we need to talk about all year long.

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Why Men Don’t Seek Mental Health Treatment

Approximately one in ten men experience some form of depression, yet less than half seek treatment. Of course, the reasons why men don’t get help vary among individuals, but there are some common causes of their reluctance.

  • Societal stigma: The negative stigma associated with mental health affects everyone. But for men, it hits a little differently. The traditional gender norms often discourage men from expressing vulnerability and seeking help for emotional difficulties. Instead, society teaches men to be “strong,” “self-reliant,” and “resilient.” And to men, this means not admitting they need help and “muscling through” their challenges.

Pride and toxic masculinity negatively affect whether men seek therapy for men.

  • Pride: Many men feel like they need to rely only on themselves for many things, including “handling” their emotions and feelings. But depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health challenges aren’t simply emotions and feelings. They are diagnosable mental health concerns that require professional help to overcome.

  • Lack of awareness: Men may be less knowledgeable about mental health concerns and may not recognize symptoms or understand available treatment options. This means they are often unaware of their own symptoms and underestimate how they impact their well-being.

  • Fear of judgment: Another significant barrier in men seeking help is the fear of appearing “weak” and facing ridicule and judgment from others, including friends, colleagues, and family members. 

  • Toxic masculinity: “Man up,” “Take it like a man,” and “Just deal with it” are all things many men hear when they face challenges. This toxic masculinity, the idea that men should just get over their pain, is a social pressure that can deter many from seeking therapy for men. 

Warning Signs to Look for In Men

While the warning signs of many mental illnesses are the same in both men and women, men actually experience mental health concerns in some unique ways. While women typically focus inward when dealing with mental health issues, men try to fix their symptoms externally by engaging in certain behaviors. 

To make matters worse, sometimes these unhealthy behaviors are often celebrated by others, things like having a high alcohol tolerance or a large number of romantic partners.

Both men and women often show the following warning signs of mental illness:

  • feeling sad, hopeless, or empty
  • fatigue 
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • not enjoying things you once enjoyed
  • thoughts of suicide

As mentioned earlier, men tend to have more outward symptoms of mental health concerns, including the following:

  • escapist behavior like spending more time at work or engaging in sports
  • substance misuse
  • physical symptoms like digestive problems, pain, and headaches
  • controlling, abusive, or violent behavior
  • anger or aggressiveness
  • risky behavior like reckless driving or driving while under the influence
  • noticeable mood, energy level, or appetite changes

Keep an eye on the men in your life to see if they need therapy for men.

If you notice these warning signs in any men in your life, they may struggle with mental health disorders. But talking to them about it can be tricky. We’ll get to how to support the guys in your life in seeking therapy for men, but first, we can’t neglect another critical factor regarding men’s mental health: the challenges men of color face.

Men’s Mental Health: Additional Challenges for Seeking Help in Men of Color

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), only one in three black adults with mental illness receives treatment. This is a significant concern because members of the black community are more likely to experience emotional stress due to generational racial trauma, racism, discrimination, and inequity. 

The American Psychiatric Association’s publication,  Mental Health Disparities: African Americans, states that compared to whites, African Americans

  • often receive poorer quality of care and lack access to culturally competent care
  • have lower rates of receiving mental health services, including prescription medications and outpatient services, yet high rates of using inpatient services
  • are less likely to receive care that is consistent with recommended guidelines. 
  • are more likely to seek help from an emergency room or their primary care provider rather than a mental health or depression specialist
  • are less likely to be offered evidence-based medication therapy or psychotherapy
  • are often misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia rather than a mood disorder, even when presenting the same symptoms as whites
  • receive 33% less patient-centered communication from physicians

Men's mental health is important, they are less likely to seek help.

Efforts are being made to improve mental health services for African Americans and other minority groups. But there are still barriers to getting the care they need. Some of those barriers include:

  • the ever-present negative mental health stigma
  • distrust of the healthcare system
  • lack of providers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds
  • lack of culturally competent providers
  • lack of insurance

Of course, all of these barriers apply to both men and women of color, but for men, they not only have to overcome the male obstacles but also the racial ones. 

That’s why talking about men’s health is so incredibly important. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health concerns do not discriminate. Therapy for men is for all, and we need to support each and every man in our life to get the help they need.

How to Support the Men in Your Life 

Recognizing the symptoms of mental illness in men is one thing. Broaching the subject is another. It can be challenging, especially with toxic masculinity and a lack of awareness working against you. But remember that sobering statistic we mentioned earlier? 

We’ll repeat it for you. 

Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. 

Let’s put it another way.

Males make up nearly 80% of all suicides.

And that’s why we need to talk about it as a society and with the men in our life. 

Here are a few tips for talking with men about their mental health. 

1. Remember, this is about them, not you.

Even if some of his mental health symptoms have hurt you, don’t make the conversation about their mental health about you. Low self-esteem and feelings of rejection and inadequacy can really affect men, so it’s best to use a caring approach. 

Try starting the conversation with something like, “Hey, I care about you, and it seems like something’s going on with you. So what’s up?”

Talk to the men in your life about their mental health, but don't force them to share if they aren't ready.

2. If he’s not ready to open up, don’t force him.

Trust is paramount when talking about men’s mental health. Many men aren’t exactly comfortable talking about their feelings with others, especially if they’re unsure if they can trust you not to judge them. 

If he’s not willing to open up to you immediately, just let him know it’s okay to talk to you and be vulnerable. But please, don’t just shrug it off. Don’t give up. Instead, invite him to shared activities or grab a bite to eat. Strengthen the bond with him so he can feel safe with you. Then you can try to talk to him about it again.

3. Be aware of the power of toxic masculinity.

Due to the negative stigma surrounding mental health, men may see having mental health issues as weak and “unmanly.” Research what toxic masculinity can look like so you can recognize it in your friend or family member. 

When you spot it, let them know it’s okay not to conform to society’s views on how men “should” deal with mental health concerns. Let them know that you care about them, not what anyone else thinks.

4. Encourage him to seek help.

One of the best things you can do for the men in your life is to encourage them to seek therapy for men when they’re struggling. They may push back initially, but consider providing him with some provider names and possible male support groups. You may even consider going with him for support.

At Nexus of Hope, We Care About Men’s Health

Our team of psychiatric nurse practitioners are depression specialists as well as experts in all things mental health. Not only that, but we are a team of culturally diverse and culturally competent clinicians who are ready to offer high-quality care for all men and women. 

Our team of Certified Nurse Practitioners at Nexus of Hope are PTSD Specialists.

If you or a man in your life is struggling with mental health concerns, we provide several mental health services in Minnesota to help, including:

  • individual therapy
  • medication management
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression

Our mental health and depression specialists, located just outside Minneapolis in Lakeville, MN, we offer in-person treatment and online therapy throughout the state. 

Don’t wait to address any mental health issue the men in your life may be dealing with. It could save their life.

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