The Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health

GoodTherapy | The Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health June is a celebratory month for many reasons, most notably the start of summertime, but many don’t realize this time of year is also Men’s Mental Health Month. While discussing such an important topic shouldn’t be confined to one month out of the year, it offers a great opportunity to reflect on the progress and conversely, persistent barriers that men still face when it comes to seeking professional help.  

Men’s Mental Health Picture By the Numbers  

It’s no secret that men have a lower likelihood of seeking mental health therapy compared to women. In fact, according to an American Psychological Association survey, just 35% of men stated they’d seek help from a mental health professional, as opposed to 58% of women.    It should go without saying that men seek therapy not because they suffer from mental health conditions at lower rates. In fact, the opposite is true in many cases. According to Mental Health America, about six million men suffer from depression in the U.S. every year, and men are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse and experience much higher rates of suicide.   Studies have shown that men also express symptoms of depression that don’t necessarily follow traditional guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, or DSM. Rather than citing well-known effects, such as chronic fatigue, appetite changes, and lowered interest in hobbies, they often state external behaviors, such as alcohol consumption or aggression, which are often more difficult to associate with a clinical diagnosis.  

Ways to Reduce Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health  

 Societal discourse and norms continue to lend credence to the notion that masculinity involves appearing tough and independent at all times. According to psychologist Dr. Brad Brenner   “Societal stigma and entrenched masculinity norms play pivotal roles in shaping men’s attitudes toward mental health problems and their willingness to seek help. The fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable is a significant barrier. This is exacerbated by the traditional view of masculinity, which emphasizes strength, stoicism, and self-reliance, often at the expense of emotional expression and vulnerability.” 

Sharing therapy experiences publicly 

Myths fester when no individuals, or at least very few, are willing to criticize a long-held belief openly, and historically, that explains why many were embarrassed or ashamed to admit they went to therapy. But times have changed. Male therapy attendance still lags in the U.S. compared to women, though the strides made over the last decade are a testament to the heightened public discourse that is questioning these long-held beliefs about what it means to be “a man.”   Men are increasingly willing to discuss their mental health journey, whether that involves seeking therapy or seeking medication for depression or anxiety. And that only propagates healthier and more transparent approaches to mental health, whether via social media or public figures. 

 Creating and maintaining healthy community and relationships 

Hearing celebrities, advertisements or social media influencers talk about therapy is helpful, but penetrating deep-seated misconceptions must also involve one’s close relationships. Surrounding yourself with friends and family that allow you to authentically express yourself and show vulnerability is a big deterrent to depressive symptoms and can act as an antidote to some mental health side effects. Such an environment also allows us to feel more comfortable sharing our own struggles, which can help propel efforts to seek therapy.    

Normalizing men in mental health positions  

Men are more likely to feel indifferent about their therapists’ gender than women — who, on average, prefer a female therapist — but there are certainly benefits of men talking with a therapist of the same sex. Just like women may feel less shame and embarrassment talking to someone who has a firsthand understanding of female-specific challenges, men are also likely to feel that way about gender-related topics, whether societally imposed or otherwise.   But because the majority of therapists and psychologists are females, it can further fuel the idea that mental health discussions are a “feminine” endeavor, and by extension, diminish one’s masculinity. In fact, women comprise nearly three-quarters of all new psychology doctorates and more than half of the psychology workforce, according to the APA’s Center for Workforce Studies  The more men go to therapy and discuss its benefits, however, the more other males will be encouraged to seek help, and eventually, they may also feel more motivated to enter the profession and provide much-needed representation.  

Making it convenient to find a compatible therapist  

Finding an available therapist who makes you feel comfortable, has availability that aligns with your schedule, and accepts your insurance can be difficult. Traditionally, the process was so cumbersome that it dissuaded many who were already apprehensive about therapy. But that’s no longer the case. Online directories, such as GoodTherapy, make the process seamless by allowing you to easily filter for the criteria you’re looking for, whether it’s by availability, price, insurance plan, or more.      

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  • Harold

    June 14th, 2024 at 1:11 PM

    You say “there is” a stigma to mental health issues, I say “there are” people taught and teaching us to say there is. We are capable of rising above them.

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