Men are often discouraged from talking about mental health, fearing a stigma. Traditional masculinity emphasises resilience, self-reliance, and strength. However, men face particular challenges when it comes to emotional well-being. Let’s have a look at men’s mental health, these difficulties, and the barriers to seeking psychological help:
- From relatively early on, men are socialised to confirm to the expectations of masculinity. Even as toddlers, boys are taught to be “tough” and “not to express ‘weak’ emotions”. This leads to pressure to conform to societal norms, to avoid being vulnerable, and therefore to not seek help. Mental health struggles are not gender-defined and avoiding seeking help is likely to exacerbate mental health challenges.
- We can challenge this stigma and encourage our male friends and family to seek assistance when necessary. Having open conversations reduces fear of judgement and helps men to prioritise their mental health.
- Cultural and societal factors can play a significant role in men’s mental health. For example, stress from work, financial pressures, relationship difficulties, and role identity, coupled with limited support and poor coping strategies, means that men face challenges that can be deemed as “normal life”, but in fact, lead to increased stress and/or anxiety or declining mood.
- Men experience mental health difficulties differently from women: Depression, anxiety, anger management issues, and substance abuse, are frequently misunderstood for men and by men, and are therefore often undiagnosed. Recognising the signs and symptoms of these issues is the first step towards seeking mental health support.
- Men are often unaware of what supports are available to them. Whilst women are more likely to talk to friends and family and thus glean support from these networks, men are less likely to do so. Nor do men engage with their doctors for emotional issues, more often seeking medical health for physical symptoms, which may be related to their mental health.
- Places like Men’s Shed or other groups when men can get together and look out for each other have helped men to openly discuss problems they may face. Healthy hobbies, exercise, mindfulness, and engaging in social activities, are great coping strategies, and can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and to improve mood.
If you, or a man you know is struggling, encourage them to have an open discussion and reach out. Psychological support is available – contact your doctor to organise. Or contact Psychology ONE.