The silent epidemic: men and mental health
June is Men’s Health Month, an observance to raise awareness about health and wellness and ways to take control of their health and lifestyles. The goal of Men’s Health Month is to bring much-needed attention to conditions affecting men of all ages, ranging from physical illness to mental health issues.
There is still a significant gap when it comes to men addressing and treating mental health issues. Blame it on stigma or antiquated macho personas men are expected to be, but for whatever reason, it has become a silent epidemic that is negatively affecting the men in our lives.
According to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in 10 men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment. Among men who experience either depression or anxiety, black and Hispanic men were less likely than white men to either report mental health concerns or treat them if they report them. Psychology Today cites “men make up over 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States,” which attributes to one male taking his life every 20 minutes.
Depression = weakness
It cannot be emphasized enough that depression has nothing to do with personal weakness. It is a serious health condition that millions of men contend with every year. It’s no different than if you develop diabetes or high blood pressure—it can happen to anyone. We show our strength by working and building supports to get better.
A man should be able to control his feelings
Depression is a mood disorder, which means it can make us feel down when there is absolutely nothing to feel down about. We can’t always control what we feel, but we can do our best to control how we react. And that includes choosing whether to ignore our problems or face them before they get out of hand.
Real men don’t ask for help
Sometimes we need an outside perspective on what might be contributing to our depression. Consulting a professional who has more knowledge of depression and treatment options is the smartest thing to do. Trying to battle a mental health condition on your own is like trying to push a boulder up a mountain by yourself—without a team to back you up, it’s going to be a lot harder.
Talking about depression won’t help
Ignoring depression won’t make it go away. Sometimes we think we know all the answers and that talking can’t help a situation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Often, things that seem like a huge deal in our minds aren’t as stressful when we talk about them more openly with a friend or mental health professional. Talk therapy (or psychotherapy) is a proven treatment for depression. It’s useful for gaining new perspectives and developing new coping skills.
Depression will make you a burden to others
Being unhealthy and refusing to seek treatment can put pressure and stress on those that care about you but asking for help does not make you a burden. It makes people feel good to help a loved one, so don’t try to hide what you’re going through from them. What’s most frustrating is when someone needs help, but they refuse to ask for it.
How do we change this? It starts with talking, to loved ones, to healthcare professionals to therapists, or a spiritual leader. Because ultimately your life depends on it and your loved ones need you.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.