Why Is it Difficult for Many Men to Talk About Mental Health?

Why Is it Difficult for Many Men to Talk About Mental Health?

Published on January 28, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Research tells us that women are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than men. Unfortunately, these numbers may be skewed due to the tendency of men to avoid treatment for mental health issues.

Men are more likely to die from suicide than women, suggesting that they may be suffering at similar rates from mental illness. They are just less likely to receive care.

Men face several personal and societal obstacles to seeking mental health care. Changing these paradigms is critical to creating quality care and preventing severe mental illness from escalating.

Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Issues

While men do face some obstacles unique to their gender when seeking mental health care, many of the challenges they face are universal. Many people feel uncomfortable going to a general practitioner or their family doctor to talk about mental health symptoms.

Research suggests that individuals, especially men, worry that they are wasting a general practitioner’s time by discussing problems that aren’t physical. However, it is essential to understand that a general practitioner’s job is to assess every patient’s health needs.

They can make appropriate referrals, as well, including referrals for mental health care. In fact, GPs report spending around 30% of their time handling patients with psychological issues. There is also a prevalent social stigma surrounding mental illness, which can complicate matters.

While this is slowly beginning to change, it can still be painful and sometimes even embarrassing to talk openly about psychological issues. People don’t feel they can talk about depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders without being judged.

However, the more visible these conditions become, the more normalized mental health care will become. This change makes it easier for everyone who needs treatment to ask for help. 

Gender Norms

Although the once-strict societal lines between genders are blurring more every day, there are still many negative and problematic associations tied to masculinity and manhood. Even for men who don’t entirely subscribe to a “macho” definition of what it means to be a man, talking about mental health is uncomfortable.

After all, years of socialization have taught them to keep their feelings to themselves. Additionally, many men feel that they are supposed to be the providers and protectors of their families. Asking for mental health care can feel like weakness or failure. The reality is that mental health disorders can affect anyone with a human brain, and these conditions have little to do with masculinity or lack thereof.

Another reason men are often less likely to reach out for help is that many men are problem-orientated “fixers.” They believe the best way to solve a problem is to figure it out themselves. They are also less likely to ask for help unless they see an opportunity to return the favor. This makes it difficult for some men to talk to their loved ones about their self-care needs.

Additionally, a common detrimental association with masculinity is a general distrust of mental health workers. Men are often pressured to “walk it off” when something hurts. If they become injured, they may feel inclined to ignore mental health symptoms, hoping they will go away on their own.

A Difference in Symptoms

Another barrier many men face when struggling with mental health issues is a difference in common symptoms associated with various mental health disorders. For example, while women may be more likely to display depression with sadness and loss of motivation, men are more likely to become irritable, angry, or impulsive.

Of course, symptoms vary between individuals, and not all men will differ dramatically from their female counterparts. However, these differences may be keeping men from receiving a proper diagnosis or alerting their loved ones to their condition.

Additionally, many men further internalize and suppress their emotional and mental pain by turning to substances like drugs and alcohol. Some of these behaviors are commonly seen as a show of masculinity and male bonding.

Unfortunately, drinking alcohol and using drugs only worsens mental health issues, and may lead to addiction. Addiction and mental illness often go hand in hand. Each ailment exacerbates the severity of the other and requires simultaneous treatment.

However, men also face similar barriers to receiving treatment for substance use disorders. Many addiction treatment programs provide gender-specific counseling.

This counseling strategy takes every unique obstacle faced by the individual into consideration to offer the most comprehensive and successful treatment plan possible. 

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490