Men’s mental health
Mental health and men
Anil Arora is a psychotherapist and marriage counsellor based in Abu Dhabi. He is an active supporter of men’s mental health issues encouraging men to speak up about their emotional and psychological concerns.
It’s a well-known fact that men, globally, find it more difficult to talk about mental health than women. It is perhaps not surprising then that there is a higher rate of suicide amongst men compared to women. Why is there such disparity between genders in the modern world?
According to Our World in Data, in 2017, global suicide rates in men are two times more common in men compared to women. The global suicide rate for women was 6.3 deaths per 100,000; for men, it was just over twice that figure at 13.9 per 100,000.
There are many reasons why men struggle to reach out for support when it comes to mental health. We can review some of them here and try to make sense of why men avoid the signs and are perhaps reluctant to reach out for support.
Stigma and men’s mental health
If we think back to previous generations, there was no such thing as “talking about your feelings” never mind going to see a doctor or reaching out to mental health services. Although this kind of thinking has changed, there is still great stigma surrounding the concept of mental health, and for men who’s stereotype it is to be ‘tough and strong’ it is far worse.
Men do not want to admit that they may need emotional support. Men are supposed to be strong and keep it together, the provider and bread winner. Perhaps men think that asking for help is a sign of weakness – bruising of the ego does not sit well.
Traditional masculinity, the type that portrays men as being able to deal with everything that is thrown at them was always a burden on the male species. It has taken many generations for us to arrive here and even now there is so much more work to do.
One other major factor that also contributes to men not seeking help is that they find it harder to establish social connections. This leaves them with less outlets when they are experiencing difficulties. Who can they talk to when they feel down if the connections are not there? We already know that men don’t reach out to mental health services and if they do it is under-reported. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Most men arrive at a model of masculinity that is outdated and which causes increased rates of mental illness.
In the arena of relational distress, such as marriage, the issue becomes even more complicated. Most men don’t want to open this space as it may highlight what they perceive to be their inadequacies.
In my experience as a therapist for over 20 years the key hindrance that blocks a couple from coming to see me is that the man feels exposed and does not wish to talk about their relationship to someone else. I always encourage the man to come along by explaining that all relationships have difficulties and that sometimes we just need an outside perspective to provide the tools so the couple can reconnect.
The story of Mike
For many years stretching way back to when Mike was 14 years old he knew something was not right. Now, at the age of 35, he still feels the same way, he describes it like “carrying a heavy weight around his neck”. It drags you down and keeps you from experiencing the life that other people take for granted.
When Mike was in his late teens he experienced episodes of feeling extremely low and it would last for months. He hid behind his teenage angst and managed to get by but it affected every aspect of his life. Mike didn’t know it then, but he was experiencing bouts of depression. His father’s side all had some type of mental health issues which they all never spoke about.
It wasn’t until Mike was at University that he got properly diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Finally, Mike felt that he could understand what he had been experiencing, and also how he could get treatment for it. He even took the brave step of telling his family that he was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Mike now regularly talks about his diagnosis to people, not because he wants the label but because he wants people to talk openly about it, especially men. He no longer feels ashamed of his feelings and wishes he had someone he could have opened up to when he was younger.
Mike is now an advocate for mental health and encourages the young and old to speak openly about mental health.
Yes, it is difficult to reach out and speak openly to another person about your challenges, however, you will find it refreshingly cathartic and rewarding.
For more information or to get help with Men’s mental health contact us or call +971 585 501 968.