When the topic of mental health is broached – be it in the media or at work – the conversation often centers around women. However, men’s mental health is important too, and sadly, many men struggle with mental health concerns on their own. One of the biggest reasons men may not be more vocal about their mental health is the stigma attached to mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Men’s mental health stigmas can have some serious consequences if left ignored.
Understanding Men’s Mental Health
While male mental health is often overlooked, the issue looms large. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Symptoms of Mental Health Concerns in Men
One of the largest hurdles for men dealing with mental health issues is that their symptoms tend to present differently than those of women.
For example, a man who is feeling depressed may be more irritable and angry rather than withdrawn and sad. In an effort to deal with this anger, they may resort to abusing drugs or alcohol to cope. Not only can this be confusing for friends and family, but the person experiencing these feelings may not be able to identify the root cause of their emotions.
Factors That Can Influence Men’s Mental Wellness
Certain aspects of life can contribute to mental health issues, such as a person’s environment, lifestyle choices, physical illnesses, work or financial stress, and/or genetics. Other influencing factors may include substance abuse, employment, education status, or a family history of mental illness.
Why is Men’s Mental Health Overlooked?
Men’s mental health stigma is rooted in several factors such as myths about mental health, social norms, self-perception and cultural beliefs. These stigmas can make it harder for men to access the help they need.
Social & Self-Stigma
Social stigma surrounding mental health disorders can become internalized by men and lead to self-stigma. For example, conventional ideas of masculinity in society can have implications such as:
- Men may not want to talk about their feelings because they worry it might make them seem weak, or unable to handle daily stressors thrown their way.
- Men may feel like their primary job is to be a provider for their family. Acknowledging that their mental health may be suffering may cause them to fear they are putting that role in jeopardy, or compare their success, or lack thereof, to their peers
- Men are often taught at an early age not to cry or express emotions. This socially-imposed “norm” can compel men to feel shame when expressing emotion and may, bury their emotions or their desire to talk about them.
The idea of “manhood” is constantly evolving. When men feel like they need to conform to these older stereotypes of masculinity, they may feel restricted when expressing or acknowledging their emotions
There are also additional cultural stigmas when it comes to male mental wellness. Benita Chatmon, PhD, assistant dean for clinical nursing education at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans states, that mental health is often considered a taboo subject in the Black community. “Those experiencing mental health issues are often considered weak, broken, and not strong enough,” she says. This, in addition to mistrust in the healthcare system, can lead to more African-American men choosing not to seek help for a possible mental health condition.
In the Hispanic community, traditional male attitudes and gender roles are often described as machismo. This masculine construct can play a role in male mental health in that it emphasizes self-sufficiency, suppression of emotions and rigid dominance over the family. This can bar men from being open about their emotions and has even been linked to negative emotional consequences like depression and anxiety.
Understanding Genetic Predispositions
By understanding your genetic profile you can be aware of any possible underlying predispositions that may be a factor in your overall mental health. With this knowledge, you can be more mindful of the symptoms and challenges you may be more likely to face than those without these predispositions.
The Genomind Mental Health Map™ is a DNA-based assessment tool for mental health and wellness that provides an in-depth analysis of your genetic predispositions across the 7 Core Genetic Mental Health Capabilities™, including Stress & Anxiety, Mood, Social Behavior, and more. Identifying your genetic predispositions gives you an important foundational understanding for addressing your mental health and wellness concerns. The Mental Health Map pairs actionable insights with personalized recommendations to help you sustain and improve your mental health – no prescription required.
How the Conversation Around Male Mental Health Is Shifting
The stigma around men’s mental health is starting to change, as more prominent male figures are speaking out about their mental health challenges. For example, Prince Harry has made headlines since breaking the royal family norms of stoicism and reservation. Prince Harry has become an advocate for ending men’s mental health stigma, speaking publicly about his experiences healing from trauma, suffering panic attacks, coping with substance abuse, and finding therapy. His perspective is helping to elevate the stories of men (and women) around the world.
The Indianapolis Colts recently launched their Kicking the Stigma initiative, with a goal to raise awareness about mental health disorders and provide funding to organizations that can help community members find support and appropriate treatment.
Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps has also been vocal about his struggle with depression, substance abuse, and past suicidal thoughts. Phelps was the first of several Olympic athletes to speak publicly about the Olympics and mental health.
Finally, Kevin Love, NBA Cleveland Cavaliers player, has become an advocate for balancing mental and physical wellbeing since writing publicly about his battle with depression in the Players Tribune. Love emphasizes that taking the time to understand your genetic foundation can go a long way in successfully managing your mental health. Partnering with Genomind, he expressed: “When I received my Mental Health Map results and reviewed them with a Genomind expert advisor, the first thing I noticed was the accuracy,” he says. “It’s given me satisfaction knowing that I’ve been doing the right things for myself these past few years, but also provides an action plan to work on areas that need more attention.” Learn how to become a mental health advocate yourself.
Putting a Stop to Men’s Mental Health Stigma
It’s time to put aside the stigmas that are often placed on men when it comes to taking care of their mental health. Society is realizing that reaching out for help is not a weakness, but a sign of strength.
Genomind’s Mental Health Map empowers you with tools and insights to make real, evidence-based changes in your life that can help you sustain and improve your mental wellness.