As a society, we are now becoming aware of mental health concerns for everyone. Yet, we are lacking behind in understanding the mental health difficulties that are faced by men. When it comes to men’s mental health, a prime concern is that mental health issues faced by men are not discussed openly, which makes it difficult for men to come forward to seek help. 

The WHO emphasized 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 high in men. The societal expectation of men to “man up” or “just snap out of it” or “be strong” or “men don’t cry” has seeped into their minds right from childhood. Going against these social and cultural expectations makes it more difficult for them to admit mental health difficulties and much less likely to seek help for them. 

It is also noted that men and women can experience different symptoms of the same mental health issues. This may be partly a “side effect” of divergent views of mental health.

  • Some men with depression hide their emotions and may seem to be angry, irritable, or aggressive, while many women seem sad or express sadness.

  • For the physiological symptoms of depression, such as a racing heart, digestive issues, or headaches, men are more likely to see their doctor about physical symptoms than emotional symptoms.

  • Self-medicating with alcohol and other substances is a common symptom of depression among men and that this can exacerbate mental health problems and increase the risk of developing other health conditions.

  • Some evidence suggests that males may be at greater risk of death by suicide because they are socialized to conform to certain masculine norms that foster engagement with painful and provocative life events, resulting in greater ‘acquired capability’ for suicide.

What can we do to encourage men to seek help?

  • Better mental health education

    • Emphasize the importance of disrupting how men traditionally think about depression and suicide by breaking down the stigma that surrounds these topics
    • help men change the idea of receiving support from “a mark of weakness” to a necessary step in maintaining one aspect of health that is as important as any other
  • Open communication

    • Making spaces for everyone to talk and discuss about mental health concerns 
    • Schools, colleges, community gatherings, workplaces can develop opportunities for this open communication that will help in reducing stigma for seeking help from a mental health counsellor
    • Resilience and mental health self-care can be modelled and help pave the way for conscious help seeking for men
  • Once men do seek help, it is important that mental health services are available and appropriate to meet their needs that acknowledge the diversity of men and the diversity of their needs

How can you help?

  • Be aware of certain signs (for yourself or your loved one) which may require assistance by a mental health counsellor

    • change in mood
    • difference in work performance
    • weight changes
    • sadness, hopelessness, or anhedonia (a loss of pleasure and pulling away from things that used to provide enjoyment)
    • physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues
  • Let them know you’re there to listen to them without judgement.

  • Help them to get help. Reassure them it’s okay to ask for help, and that support is out there.