Mental health in general comes bearing a large amount of stigma. Even in some of the most developed countries, mental health is still not given the attention that it deserves and quite frankly, the attention it needs. Sure, our society has improved from throwing the mentally ill into cells and labeling them demons or wards of Satan but we’re still a great distance away from where we should be.
Mental health problems can affect anyone and the aim of this post is NOT to take anything away from any other group that experiences mental health issues. In this case, I’m not in any way undermining the impact it has on females. I’m simply raising an awareness that A) There is a stigma associated with mental health issues in males and B) Due to this and other reasons, males are less likely to seek out help or have it correctly diagnosed when they do.
So I hope by writing this I can make some men aware that they’re not alone in whatever they are going through while still acknowledging the problems that females face when it comes to mental health.
Where the Problem Lies
We’ll look at some of the stigmas surrounding mental health in a second but first, let’s take a look at some of the facts and figures. For example: Females are more likely to disclose distressing information than their male counterparts. It has also been found that the older men get, the less likely they are to disclose distressing information (1): Meaning that getting help at a younger age is important! The issue of opening up (as it where) relates to many of the stigmas that create a lot of the problems with male mental health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) (2) found that a gender bias exists in relation to the treatment of mental health. Doctors are more likely to identify, diagnose depression and prescribe medication to females, even when they present with identical symptoms or have similar scores on the standardised measures of depression to males.
Unfortunately, what this means is that illnesses such as depression can often go unnoticed. This is incredibly troubling given the suicide rate. Depression is seen as one of the main causes of suicide and in the UK in 2015, out of the 6,188 suicides, 4,622 were males. That means that nearly 75% of suicides were males. When it comes to males aged 15-19, it was found that males were twice as likely to commit suicide than females (3)
While looking for information for this post, I found that many sites are more directed towards helping women than men. Searching for information on “mental health in men” leads to a page about mental health difference between the sexes (a page that focuses on females). Searching “mental health men” on the WHO website leads to pages about violence against women.
I found that even doing a google search of “Are males underrepresented when it comes to mental health” leads to the same WHO page titled “Gender and Women’s Mental Health”. I’m not holding anyone responsible for this, I’m just highlighting that there is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.
While there are high standards for both sexes, the image of masculinity that men are held to causes them to believe that mental health issues are a weakness. We’ve been raised with the idea that in order to be macho, we can’t show our emotions, we certainly can’t talk about our feelings (which is why such a high percentage of men turn down therapy) and having to accept that we suffer from something like anxiety, depression, alcohol-addiction or any other mental health disorder would just be unacceptable in the eyes of a “truly masculine man”.
This doesn’t end here though. For many men, the cause (or at least one of the causes) of certain mental health problems is stress related. More often than not this is related to work. There’s also a major disadvantage when it comes to family matters which can also be a trigger that leads to mental illness. Being less likely to receive custody of their children can sink many men into depression.
Don’t be mistaken. The purpose of this post isn’t to debate fair representation within society or highlight areas where one sex is disadvantaged; at least not outside certain areas of mental health. I think that it’s imperative that awareness is raised not just for mental health issues in males but for mental health issues in general.
You’re Not Alone
It’s important to realise that you’re not alone in all this. Whether you’ve suffered from a mental illness for a while or you’re just starting to notice symptoms, there are people who can support you! I spent several years of my life with anxiety without even knowing what it was! I still struggle to talk to people about it and it’s not something I openly admit to people.
Most of my friends have no idea how difficult certain parts of my life have been and my family are just as clueless. I figure that if I had somewhere I knew I could go to for help, some sort of community or website where I could get helpful advice from genuine people, then perhaps I might have been better off.
So at the very least, we can use this platform to share our stories. Perhaps you’ve never admitted it to anybody before but think that doing so anonymously will help. I can assure you, it will. I used to keep all my thoughts private. I wrote them down in a word document on my laptop but I wouldn’t share them with anyone! When I finally did start to write about my experiences, I found it incredibly therapeutic: like a weight being lifted from your chest!
I started to realise that I can’t help how I am. It’s not like I asked to have anxiety. It’s not like I choose to struggle with basic day-to-day activities. The sooner we can admit that this isn’t our fault, the sooner we can start to work towards a solution! Stepping forward is difficult, sometimes it feels impossible! I know that from experience and it’s still something I struggle with…but if we can do it together then perhaps we can encourage others to do the same.
Imagine a world where you could open up about your mental health issues without fear of ridicule or judgement…imagine a world where we weren’t terrified that others might view us as weak, sub-human or broken. The truth is, it’s only our minds that make us worry that we’ll be judged in such a way. Many people may be clueless about mental health issues but most people aren’t going to hold it against you in any way. I’d say it’s all in our heads but I feel like that would perhaps be a poor choice of words. Together, we can improve the lives of those with mental health issues.
That is my aim for this website! It’s one that I hope you’ll help me with. Let us create a space where advice on mental health can be found, where awareness can be raised and issues can be discussed! Whether you post anonymously or not is a decision left entirely up to you but let us begin a journey that will hopefully result in doing some good!
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Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day! Peace!
1- Ward et al (2007)