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Due to stigma, many men are hesitant to seek professional help for mental health concerns, and it can have tragic long-term effects. Here’s how we can fight back.
Feeling mentally well
Mental well-being isn’t simply feeling upbeat, says Rick Ezekiel, Director of Equitable Learning, Health and Wellness at Centennial College. “It also includes adaptive emotions like moderate stress in response to major life events, work, or school deadlines; sadness when grieving a loss; anger, upset, and uncertainty when navigating interpersonal conflict.”
Men’s mental health
Stigmas play a big part in why it can be so difficult to talk about mental health. There is an enduring belief, says registered psychotherapist Daryl Vineberg, that men “need to ‘hold it together.’ We have fears around ‘falling apart,’ because of what it might mean to both ourselves and to others. But this robs us of the experience of reaching out for support and connecting to others in our vulnerability.”
Statistics indicate that while women outnumber men in terms of reported depression and anxiety, more men are reported to experience addiction. And, 75 percent of those who die by suicide are men.
Gender differences continue to persist, explains Ezekiel, in ways like less willingness to self-identify as experiencing a mental health challenge, and seeking help less often. As Vineberg points out, this may be because “there can be expectations of men to be ‘stable,’ ‘independent,’ and ‘reliable.’”
Boys and men, explain Ezekiel, receive societal messages, definitions, and expectations of “manhood” and “maleness,” like needing to be “strong.” This toxic version of masculinity can in turn prevent the very “emotional intelligence, reaching out, and network-building critical to preventing or supporting mental illness.”
Vineberg adds, “Toxic masculinity is a mask, an energetic posture that provides a false sense of safety through a denial of vulnerability. In this place, he can’t really connect with another, or get his real needs met.”
Ready to reach out
If you have concerns about your mental health, it is important to reach out to your health care practitioner for support.
How can men sense when it might be time to reach out for help? Ezekiel hopes men might do so if they
- notice that they’re not enjoying activities that usually bring joy
- feel a desire for isolation or disconnection
- sense regular low mood and irritability
- experience higher levels of conflict among family, friends, or colleagues
- struggle with stagnation or hopelessness for the future
- have physical manifestations such as needing too little or too much sleep, weight gain or significant unintended weight loss, or low appetite or low energy levels
Tips for mental wellness
Daryl Vineberg suggests the following to stay mentally well.
- simply put: physical exercise!
- psychotherapy—for individuals, couples, and in groups
- myriad forms of creative expression, like dance, music, singing, art, writing, cooking, and lovemaking
- open-hearted contact with others