Man – Strong and silent. Stoic. Heroic. Tearless and fearless. In America, a man is defined by his ability to be all these things. Mental health issues are inconsequential, and behaviors such as crying (according to other men and women) lower your “man status.” How did man become such a… man? Take a look back at historical American advertising, and you will see that the ideal man is expressionless, emotionless and fierce.
Our perceptions of men and how they behave have been carefully disseminated to us by companies wanting to sell their products and services since the early 1900s.
Newspapers with ads where men sit in the study drinking brandy and smoking a pipe or cigar sold out cigar stores everywhere. Another ad page shows a man sitting atop a gallant horse, smoking cigarettes and staring out at the prairie as the sun sets behind him. Ads say that men drive fast cars, classic cars, pump iron, drive trucks, drive trucks off-road through the Yukon, camp, fish, and hang with their buddies talking about football.
Then Disney brought to life every little girl’s dream of a Prince Charming. Disney’s princesses were always rescued by a kiss and protected from harm by a big, strong knight in shining armor.
But then who rescues the hero? What happens to the knight or the prince when the princess runs away with the king? How does the story end? It ends in 14.4 minutes when no one is there to help him through his pain. Seemingly hopeless and lost (but unable to identify those feelings), the only light he sees is on the other side of life, so he says his last goodbyes.
The 5 Top Reasons Men Don't Seek Help for Their Mental Health Issues
1. Why Men Don’t Seek Help – First, They’d Have to Ask for It.
Mental health issues plague everyone from time to time. However, those issues were hidden twenty years ago behind smiling faces, fake illnesses and busy schedules. If you were suffering from depression, you didn’t talk about it. You put on a brave face, did your job and went home to cry alone.
But over the last fifteen years, there has been a great mental health awakening. You couldn’t turn on the television or open a blog post for a time without seeing a celebrity sharing their mental health story. Slowly mental health issues like depression and anxiety lost their stigmatizing labels and became more widely accepted by women.
Men, however, did not catch on to the normalizing of mental health issues. They still do not like to admit their mental health can be a problem, and most won’t admit it, but 16.75% of them will struggle with mental health as opposed to 10.80% of women.
The availability of treatment has vastly improved over the years, as have the treatment modalities. Still, there is a disproportionate difference between the number of males experiencing mental health issues and those seeking treatment. Why is this?
2. Mental health awareness strategies have not been targeted well at men.
When men deal with serious emotional and mental health issues, they initially respond more strongly to dark humor and easy, low-key mental health language. Once the ice is broken and they become curious and engaged, they are more willing to have their concerns contextualized within the realm of mental health.
Awareness campaigns fail to consider this aspect of men’s approach to feelings and emotions. Ads attempting to normalize mental health and reduce its stigma fall on deaf men’s ears.
The instant they see or hear the words mental health or emotions, they have already gone back to the TV guide.
"Let’s break the stereotype before we break the man“ – successfail.org
3. Men do not participate in mental health treatment for several reasons, and they are wrapped up tightly in the idea of masculinity.
• They Must Be Self-Reliant – Men have been taught to be the helper since they learned to walk. They hold the door open for people behind them. They help carry heavy boxes up the stairs for the neighbor. They offer their chair to an older person when the seats are full. They pitch in to help when they see it’s needed.
But they never ask someone to help them with something they can probably do themselves, even if it means six extra trips out to the car. And never ever ever do they ask for help trying to resolve an emotional dilemma.
• They Cannot Show Weakness – Time after time, injury after injury, heartbreak after heartbreak, men are expected to tough it out. Toughen up. Get over it. Brush it off. They are taught to be the protector. They think fearless and strong men don’t seek treatment for mental health issues (which they don’t have anyway).
• Waste of Resources – An alarmingly substantial portion of the male population continues to suffer depression (and other mental illnesses) because they don’t think treatment will help them. They have no desire to waste time or money talking to someone about how they feel. Besides, they feel fine. The problem is usually elsewhere, and if what caused the pain would go away, then there would be no problem. Yet the anger or sadness persists unresolved.
• Reciprocity – Men do not like accepting something for nothing. They decline the offer if they think they have nothing to offer in return.
4. Men also often express mental health problems differently than women.
If you haven’t learned to identify a feeling, you can’t adequately express it. A man who appears angry or frustrated may actually be depressed. Men also deal with mental health issues by self-medicating. Addiction is widespread in depressed men.
On the flip side, women express depression by being sullen, talking about feelings of worthlessness and over-sleeping. And since women seek comfort and an ear that will listen, they are often in treatment quicker and get better faster.
5. Men, Mental Health and the Stigma Men Face.
Self-stigma is the internalization of social stigma, in that the person with the mental illness feels shame about their symptoms. This is what men do to themselves and each other when dealing with mental health problems.
Men in America are expected to behave in particular ways. They are expected to conform to the masculine norms or social rules that dictate expected behavior associated with men.
Behaviors such as crying and emotions like anxiety or depression are given little attention and even less thought.
Men have adhered to this strict perception of what a man is for over 100 years, but we are discovering that suppressing feelings because of societal gender norms runs the risk of severe health complications such as:
• Worsening of depression and anxiety
• Abuse of substances
• Greater health risk (e.g., cardiovascular and metabolic disease)
• Issues with dating and interpersonal intimacy
• Issues with interpersonal violence
• Increase in overall psychological distress
• Discouragement in seeking help
But it can get better. Society can do a few things to help men feel more comfortable expressing and actually feeling negative emotions.
Since men often have difficulty finding the vocabulary to express themselves, and even the most basic descriptions may not be accurate, listen carefully and with compassion.
Recommending a trustworthy therapist or helping them choose their treatment are also great ways to show support. And remind the men in your life that good health is from the top-down, inside and out.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
Dasgupta, A. (2018, July 10). Men may be less likely to seek professional help. Retrieved from White Swan Foundation: https://www.whiteswanfoundation.org/gender/men/men-may-be-less-likely-to-seek-professional-help#:~:text=Men%20are%20less%20likely%20to%20reach%20out%20and,what%20are%20appropriate%20behaviors%20for%20our%20respective%20gender.
Doshi, S. (n.d.). 3 Less-Known Reasons Why Men Don’t Talk About Mental Health. Retrieved from Mental Health America: https://www.mhanational.org/blog/3-less-known-reasons-why-men-dont-talk-about-mental-health
Faraci, C. (2018, July 19). Why Aren’t Men Seeking Help for their Mental Health? . Retrieved from https://anxietyandbehaviornj.com/why-arent-men-seeking-help-for-their-mental-health/#:~:text=Waste%20of%20Resources%20%E2%80%93%20Even%20beyond%20the%20more,going%20to%20be%20wasting%20their%20time%20and%2For%20money.
Men’s Issues in Mental Health Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Gooden Center: https://www.goodencenter.org/mens-issues-in-mental-health-treatment/
Men’s Mental Health Stigma & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from We Level Up: https://welevelup.com/treatment/mens-mental-health-