The Silent Struggle: Men’s Mental Health
When society determines the ideal characteristics of being a man, we’ve consistently seen the same stereotypes for decades. Tall, athletic, and hard working. The head of the household, and the primary source of funding for the family. Men are expected to be tough and stoic – men are not allowed to cry. “Real” men are expected to be independent and men are expected to be stable. Men are expected to not reveal or even have vulnerabilities.
These ideals have damaged our society and have continuously pushed away the needs of Men’s health – physical and mental. When we think about the men in our lives, what is it like for you when they get sick? 40% of men will only go to the doctor when they fear having a serious medical condition. And 19% of men have admitted that the only reason they make appointments is so their loved ones will stop bothering them about it! Beyond that, one in five men have reported that even at the doctor, they aren’t completely honest with them about their health. The leading causes of death among men are heart disease and cancer. Both of these diseases are survivable with early intervention, but for men who wait an extended period of time to see a doctor, their diagnoses could be at a crucial point.
The statistics for men who seek help for Mental Health conditions are even lower. Men have a higher rate of suicide and substance abuse with a direct, inverse relationship to a very low rate of mental health services. Only 1 in 4 men have spoken to a mental health professional about feelings of depression or anxiety. And the suicide rate among men is 4 times higher than among women. That accounts for 79% of suicide victims in the United States.
The stereotypes surrounding men and their health needs to change and change soon! It is no longer just an issue of health, but a societal issue that must be addressed. Men have been pushed out and into a space where their health needs have been shamed and quieted. We must speak up and out against this We can do this by making sure we encourage the men in our lives to be open. Let them know it is okay to not be okay. Show them that there is strength in reaching out for what they need. Work in your relationships to break down the stereotypes that men are expected to fulfill! Taking this step in our homes can be the difference between someone opening up to you or remaining silent in their struggle.
Sarah Waldrop is the Southeast Regional Coordinator at the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee. Sarah’s passionate about working at MHAET because she wants to promote and educate on the importance of mental health and early intervention. Sarah most enjoys building a strong community network, and hearing the stories from students that she gets to teach. She lives in Chattanooga with her fiancé, Nate, and their two dogs, Brodie and Bella. Sarah practices self-care daily through fitness and quality time spent outdoors with her family.