Mental Illness: Breaking the Stigma in Men
Tue, April 20, 2021

Mental Illness: Breaking the Stigma in Men

Mental Health America lists six million men affected by mental illness every single year in the US. / Photo by: ocusfocus via 123rf

 

Contrary to what many perceive, mental illness is not insanity, rage, or sadness. It is a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior. It is a medical problem, just like heart disease or diabetes. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Mental Health by the Numbers

World Health Organization data revealed that around 450 million people are currently suffering from neurological disorders and put mental disorders among the leading causes of disability worldwide. One in four people will be affected by mental health but two-thirds of the afflicted do not seek help.

Mental Health America lists six million men affected by mental illness every single year in the US. In addition, 3.54 percent more men died of suicide than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide and depression are ranked as leading causes of death among men.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that the annual number of men dying from alcohol-related causes is 62,000 compared to 26,000 in women. Likewise, men are two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women.

But why do men persist to deny the condition? Why are they so slow to ask help if they get help at all?

The Stigma Men Face

A lot of men do not want to admit their mental health problems. They see depression or anxiety as signs of weakness. Perhaps this is still part of the macho image attached to men. Societies have dictated that men should be strong and never outwardly express emotions. Men were traditionally raised to remain detached from emotional pains, and vulnerabilities are perceived to be traits of women. Men are taught to suppress emotions as this expression is seen as weak, unmanly, and degrading to men’s ego.

Although outdated, men trudge on with these behaviors. Stigma on mental health illness continues to strongly bulldoze men. The continuing guilt and shame lead men to be less willing to ask for help.

 

Societies have dictated that men should be strong and never outwardly express emotions. / Photo by: ra2studio via 123rf

 

Breaking the Stigma

A lot of men fall prey to the notion that they are strong and tough enough to handle their problems on their own. They are too scared to show their vulnerability for fear of losing their power with others. As such, stigma stays.

As supposedly the stronger sex, men are hesitant to seek treatment for their mental health problems, often trying to cope by drinking or doing drugs rather than openly discussing it with others. This needs to drastically change. The stigma needs to end.

Here are some ways to break this stigma of guilt and shame:

- Be open and talk about mental health to others. Do not be afraid to talk about mental health openly. There is nothing humiliating about it. Talking in whispers only aggravates the premise that it is an embarrassing and shameful subject. Foster transparency. No one is immune from anxiety, stress, or depression. Talking about the problem can cultivate understanding and support that could combat feelings of aloneness and seclusion that help mental health issues to flourish.

- Educate yourself and learn more about mental health. Education and awareness play a great part in providing help as early as possible. Do not let the lack of knowledge take shape. Vanish stereotypes about mental health conditions, do not propagate and spread. Be knowledgeable about the realities of mental health issues and share knowledge with others. This action may benefit someone silently suffering. Reaching out to others could help them to start the necessary treatment and to help them live fuller lives.

- Be selective in terms of use. Research said that positive words help enhance mental processes of perception and judgment, negative words block out rationality and way of thinking. It is imperative to carefully select words while discussing mental health conditions and issues. Never use offensive and belittling words like cuckoo, crazy, stupid, psycho, or moron when referring to any person afflicted with mental health illness. Words sometimes unintentionally hurt others and considerably break the frail state of minds of mentally ill men.

- Place yourself in the shoes of men suffering from mental health conditions. The feelings of the pain of those suffering from mental illness are often well hidden. These are invisible outwardly. Men in such states wear fictitious masks to conceal real reflections of their selves. Pain and hurt are usually dealt with through substance abuse such as drugs and alcohol, by physically hurting selves, or wildly taking chances. Put yourselves in their shoes and act accordingly with understanding and compassion. Do unto others what you would like others to do unto you.

- Cease and desist categorizing and tagging people. Name-calling and labeling are hurtful and destructive. Calling a mentally ill person as a bipolar dude or moronic guy (even without them hearing) is too insulting. Such derogatory names may severely change perceptions and views of individuals or of others.

Anyone of us may at some instances walk in the darkness of mental illness, so remember to be considerate.

It is okay to ask for help. Asking can be a sign of strength. Do not begrudge yourself in seeking the crucial treatment to attain a hopeful tomorrow.