Men & Mental Health: A Stigma That Needs To Be Done Away With, NOW!

Men & Mental Health: A Stigma That Needs To Be Done Away With, NOW!

international mens day
Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava

 

Introduction

Men’s mental health is one of the most stigmatized topics, especially in India, where it’s largely considered to be a sign of weakness if a man talks about his issues.

Surveys show that men are significantly at higher risk of attempting suicide than women, as they find it difficult to open up about their mental health. This is due to the social shame surrounding men’s mental health, and the deep-rooted prevalent social concept of ‘man-up & be strong’ or ‘men don’t cry’. 

It’s hard to identify the exact figures of male mental health cases because most men with mental health problems prefer not to consult an expert or talk to anyone about what’s going on in their minds. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the cultural stigma around men’s mental health is one of the biggest hindrances to men agreeing to the fact they are struggling and need help.

 

Numbers don’t lie

Data from the mental health helpline, KIRAN (a Govt. of India initiative), showed an alarming trend, wherein men counted for 70% of all the calls received from September 2020.

Since its launch on 16 September 2020, 69.9% of the total 29,975 calls received have been from males. The figures get even direr as from all the calls from male callers, 76.8% were from male adults between 15 to 40 years of age, and 16.8% were from men between the age of 41 to 60 years.

 

Watch out!

Signs that give us a better understanding of people suffering from psychological issues include:

 

    • Anger, irritability, and aggression
    • Noticeable changes in mood, energy levels, or appetite
    • Thoughts or behaviours that interfere with work, social, and family life
    • Sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
    • Obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour
    • Feeling on the edge or restless and having difficulty concentrating
    • Experiencing aches, headaches, and digestive problems without a clear cause
    • Constantly feeling stressed
    • Engaging in high-risk activities
    • Sadness or hopelessness
    • Having trouble feeling positive emotions
    • Suicidal thoughts

 

While all this can paint a gloomy picture and make you worry about your own or someone else’s mental health, continue reading to learn about the help and support that can help in addressing mental health issues in a timely and more efficient way. 

 

Men don’t talk about mental health. Here’s why

In Indian households, men are commonly the breadwinners. Don’t cry, be strong! Take control! are some of the common phrases heard when they feel low or are disturbed. Men are often expected to MAN-UP for the roles they have to play in their lives and maintain a facade of invincibility, which is one of the leading triggers of male mental health issues. 

Although these aren’t bad things, yet they are more than enough for men to think that they are tough and require no help, or hesitate in opening up and asking for help.

The societal expectations and traditional gender roles contribute majorly to men’s mental health complications. Thus, it is important to understand that stereotypes and expectations can have a significant negative impact. 

According to some studies, men are more prone to develop symptoms of mental health complications. The odds of not seeking help are higher, where either there’s a lack of awareness about mental health or where men have accepted the societal norm of ‘men don’t cry‘. This prevents them from even speaking to the people they trust, let alone consulting a therapist.

 

Is depression different for men?

The symptoms of depression are similar in everyone which include anxiety, helplessness, irritability, and social isolation.

When men experience depression, they can probably lean towards harmful coping strategies such as drugs and alcohol addiction, rather than talking to people whom they can trust.

They may also show escapist behaviour, such as throwing themselves into work or excessive workouts, which are the telltale signs of self-denial.

The first step towards the road to depression recovery is to accept the fact that you have a problem. Going to a therapist or speaking to people close to you about your state of mind isn’t shameful, it’s rather very brave.

It takes courage to seek help and speak out. But once you do, you are well on your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. 

 

Concerned about your mental health? Here’s what you can do

First, accept that you have a problem and that you have to take the route to recovery. Then, take a note of preventive measures for mental health, which you can find here. Sure, you want to get better, but don’t overdo the efforts.

Take small steps and make simple changes, such as staying active and above all, try harder and harder to talk about your feelings. Nothing feels better if you’ve been heard. Try talking to your friends, family, colleagues, or anyone you feel comfortable with.

Simply start off by saying, “I need help” and tell them what’s troubling you. 

Seeking professional help is paramount for a quick recovery, and is especially critical for those who might not have anyone else to speak to or find it way too hard or embarrassing to talk to people they know.

Remember, speaking to a therapist can make a remarkably huge difference in the way you think and help you put yourself on the path of positivity. 

Everyone needs a friendly ear & an empathetic heart

While this article is all about men’s health, but the following tips can help you, help anyone you know who has mental health issues or is struggling with the onset of the above-mentioned symptoms.  The following tips can prove to be extremely useful:

 

    • Listen to them like a true friend
    • Keep in touch with them, as they may find it difficult to reach out 
    • Ask them if they are feeling OK
    • Keep an eye out on any signs that the person is developing thoughts about self-harm
    • Tell them you’re worried about them and that they matter to you
    • Let them feel that they’ve been heard
    • Tell them that they aren’t alone
    • Above all, do your best to steer them towards seeking professional help

 

Final thoughts

This International Men’s Day, let us pledge to break the stigma of manning up and make it easier for men to talk about their mental health.

It’s time to break the harmful societal norms about men’s mental health and spread awareness about this issue that is quite manageable if support and help are delivered on time. 

All the stress and a lack of mental health support can easily lead to a variety of health issues that can manifest as an aftermath of untreated mental health issues.

Hence, it’s wise to keep a check on your overall wellbeing by opting for regular health checkups. Remember, a healthy brain equals a healthy body, and vice-versa.

 

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