Change the Narrative:Men’s Mental Health Awareness
This narrative is especially for men. As a man you are a crucial part of the family dynamic, yet ofttimes societal pressures and masculine norms can influence your attitude towards healthcare…especially mental healthcare. At an early age you were taught not to show your emotions, that vulnerability is a weakness, and that you must be the rock-solid foundation for your family. That kind of pressure can produce tremendous stress when expectations are not being met. One key factor about the family dynamic that can get lost when men accept masculine norms and societal expectations at face value is that “family equals team.” A team works together so that every aspect of the family runs smoothly. Mothers, wives, and girlfriends too often show up as the motivating factor in encouraging men to seek medical attention. If you can see yourself in that picture, listen up. You are not alone. You do not have to be strong by yourself all the time. You do not have to prioritize your work or your provider role over your healthcare. Good health is a requirement for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor, to spend quality time with your loved ones, and to do all the things your heart desires to accomplish.
Societal Expectations and Mental Health Society dictates that as a man you have to:
Be self-reliant and independent, a mindset that can make it difficult for you to ask for assistance, especially with mental health concerns.
Restrain your emotions, which can cause you to hide your fears and concerns outwardly while inwardly struggling to cope which can cause mental anguish.
Be stoic and strong. Feeling like you have to always be in control of every situation and circumstance is like clothing yourself with a ton of bricks every day.
Be invincible, a mindset that can lead to feelings of overconfidence and that you are always right. Then when your armor gets pierced, you scramble to cover up.
These types of societal expectations can stress you out and make you feel alone. Excess stress and feelings of isolation can be detrimental to your mental health.
Practical Tips for Men’s Mental Health Here are five things you can do that can help alleviate some of life’s stresses and societal pressures and change the narrative of your mental health journey.
Decide to be vulnerable. Realize that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indicator of your willingness to be open to sharing the real you so you can get the same in return. When you are comfortable being who you are, stress melts away like butter on a hot biscuit. Cold butter on a cold biscuit is not the same, right?
Educate yourself about specific health concerns that affect men, like heart disease, various forms of cancer, prostate health, and mental health issues. Maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption can help mitigate risk factors for those health concerns.
Prioritize regular health check-ups. Do it for yourself and not because your significant other insisted you do it. Early detection and prevention of potential health issues can allow for timely intervention and treatment and help ensure you are around for your family.
Focus on your mental health. If you are struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, or any other mental health issues, reach out to your healthcare provider, or therapists and support groups. As you think in your heart so are you. So, think about good things and release unnecessary worries that do not belong to you. If worrying will not change the situation, then cast those cares away and seek a solution that will give you peace of mind.
Maintain strong supportive relationships. Building a network of trusted and supportive friends and family is crucial for your mental well being.
Common Mental Health Conditions That Affect Men:
Anxiety: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 1 in 5 men will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
Depression: According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately six million men in the United States experience depression each year. Because men may be less likely than women to seek help for depression that number may be under-estimated.
Suicide: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, male suicide rates are about three times higher than female rates.
Man Therapy: An online resource designed to address mental health challenges in men. It offers tools, resources, and information to help men understand and manage their mental well being. Check out their website https://mantherapy.org for educational videos, various resources, and a confidential self-assessment tool that addresses men’s mental health conditions. They also have a “Worried About Someone” section for friends and family who are concerned about the mental health of a loved one.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) is a 24/7 helpline with free confidential support for individuals in distress. Their website, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, provides emotional support, crisis intervention, and referrals to local resources. Be sure to check out their “Stories of Hope and Recovery.” That section contains emotionally moving stories about people who have overcome their mental health challenges.
Today is the prefect time to begin to change the narrative of your mental health journey by prioritizing your healthcare, listening closely to what your body is telling you, educating yourself about common mental health issues, and strengthening your supportive relationships. You are not alone. You are the sunshine for someone in your life. Take care of you and continue to shine brightly.◼