Men and Mental Health Stigma
Mental health stigma affects all people differently and it is particularly unique when you are experiencing mental illness as a man. Men are raised to be tough, dependable, and the majority of men may even find it difficult to express emotion. There is prominent stigma in our society that tells men who have a mental illness that they simply just have to "suck it up."
Men Experiencing Mental Health Stigma and Peer Support
I am Executive Director for a mental health non-profit society called the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia, and we run a variety of programs surrounding peer support and mental health education. Our society has three mental health support groups as we feel that peer support is especially important when you have a mental illness along with a variety of additional coping strategies and techniques.
One of our support groups is dedicated solely to women, but the only reason is because not one man showed up in the group’s formative stages. I decided to launch an additional support group in another area of town and made it a co-ed group, and, to my surprise, there were a few men that actually came, but of course still having the women outnumbering them. As time has gone on, all but one of the group’s male participants remains and other men have voiced that they can "do this" on their own. However, to my delight we still have a great male who hosts barbecues with us, is a wonderful contributor to the group, and has shown immense progress and healing.
I have also had men who have come to the group voice that they formerly isolated themselves for months in their home, and found the peer support group to be helpful when they needed it most.
Men Living with Mental Health Stigma and Reaching Out
In my conversations with men, I am often told that they do not want to be seen as weak such as by taking medication because they feel they need to depend only on themselves. Men often feel a deep sense of defeat and have issues reaching out for help, which is unfortunate, especially when someone is dealing with a mental illness.
I am not here to simply tell men that it is all going to be okay, it’s easy, and that they should simply reach out, but the truth is, why not reach out? Perhaps you have not considered all your options. Men with a mental illness may consider the following strategies:
- Confide in an understanding female friend, perhaps one that is already living with a mental illness. Women are emotional beings and are often willing to listen and want you to reach out for their help.
- Why not participate in an online forum for mental health? Choose your online chatting websites carefully, of course, and the right forum may provide you with a supportive community while maintaining your anonymity.
- Consider writing down what you are feeling and read a book about your condition (Mental Health Book Store). I know that when I journal, I feel a lot better just having gotten it all out on paper; and by educating yourself on your mental illness, it may make you feel much more confident discussing it.
- You may call a hotline or seek out a professional mental health counselor as this is also something that can be done in secrecy if that is what works for you.
My hope is that eventually you will not have to keep your mental illness a secret and that you do reach out. Why not give it a shot and see what happens?
Paquette, A. (2014, September 17). Men and Mental Health Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2014/09/men-and-mental-health-stigma
Author: Andrea Paquette
[…] me, as a woman writing about this, isn’t as effective as if a man were; however, I have seen the stigma that men with mental illness face. One of my friends who struggles with depression is afraid of seeming weak and won’t seek […]
Good point made here! I once set with my family in a family group session at a mental health facility my teenage son had been admitted to. My comment to the group was that I could not understand why my son would claim to be a drug addict (even before he began self medicating) but could not acknowledge that he suffered from a mental illness. I was surprised when another parent (a father) commented."I understand exactly why! I, myself would rather be known as a drug addict than someone with a mental illness. It is far more acceptable to be a drug addict in America than it is to have a mental illness." This statement really opened my eyes. We need to do whatever we can to help change this, it is just as OK to be mentally ill as it is to have cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma or any other debilitating disease. It is time the people of this world to understand that their is no difference and embrace those that need support.
No one ever mentions what I have seen all too often, and which I see as the most prevalent reason men with mental illness don't - and, in fact, CAN'T - reach out for help, and especially why they can't take medication for it. Employers will not hesitate to TERMINATE their employment, citing "safety issues" as their pretextal justification in order to avoid any legal blowback.
I have personally seen this happen to coworkers, friends, and even supervisors, and I experienced it myself a few years ago when I made the grave error of disclosing my disability in order to request a TEMPORARY accommodation in my schedule, of only 30 minutes' adjustment to my arrival time.
Immediately they asked me whether I was taking medication for my condition. A few days later I was required to submit to a drug screen. When it demonstrated my use of an anti -depressant I was summarily fired. So much for support.
Good post! I think there is also another barrier to men getting appropriate help. In my experience mental health diagnoses can look very different for men. Depression is expressed with anger and anxiety more often in men. This often causes them difficulty in recognizing and getting the right support. It's important to acknowledge that we are all different and if you aren't feeling okay - no matter what that looks like for you it is okay to get help!
I think this post makes some good points. The only thing I might question is it seems to imply women have an easier time reaching out. That isn't always true.
I can so relate to this. I was one of these guys for years. i was to tough, to macho to talk about my mental state with anyone. Hell, I couldn't even face it myself. As a result a was seconds from disaster. Since that night I have gone through the entire spectrum from starting by accepting I had a mental health issue to now being a mental health advocate and speaker for BeyondBlue here is Australia.
I wrote about this awakening process in a post http://www.queenslandmentalhealth.com/depression-in-men-is-real/ I hope that between everyone working in this space we can start to turn things around.
It is OK to talk about how you feel. It doesn't mean you are weak. In fact I think it means the exact opposite. You are strong because you realise there is a problem and are doing something about it. That takes guts
MOST so called "NORMAL" men need ZIPPERS ON THEIR MOUTHS!