Men’s Mental Health

Talking about men’s mental health isn’t taboo.

Words by Ryley Roudabush | Photo by Unsplash

“Man up. Real men don’t cry.” These phrases are part of the damaging stigma around men’s mental health. Having and expressing emotions is a basic human experience. But for generations, men have been raised and shaped to understand that expressing emotions is a weakness and suppressing mental health issues is crucial to being a real man.

Todd Adams, executive director for MenLiving, shares how the stigma around men’s mental health is like a box. Inside that box, men are limited in order to fit the societal definition of being a man.

“Within the box, we measure ourselves with things like money, sexual prowess, how athletic we are, and more,” Adams says. “There is no room for sadness, fear, or even joy.”

It may take years to change the cultural bias and for this stigma to end. Julie Mertz, licensed marriage and family therapist, describes how stigmas reinforce uncomfortable feelings of shame, embarrassment, or make someone feel like there’s something wrong with them. However, the stigma itself seems to be less prominent since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have seen an increase in the number of men that have been seeking therapy in my practice over
the last few years and I think that is positive,” Mertz says.

One step to start this change is to teach children how to express their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. It’s important that children learn the components of communication and its function in relationships.

“Teaching young boys what ‘manhood’ really looks like, feels like, and encouraging them to have good boundaries, teaches kindness and thoughtfulness of self and others,” says Donald Gilbert, president
and CEO of New Life Counseling.

Besides education at a young age, having conversations about mental health is a good step in the right direction.

“Every person I know has a different relationship with their own mental health,” Adams says. “The more we talk about it and normalize it, the better.”

Bringing mental health discussion into social and cultural settings supports the destigmatization and creates safe spaces for men to talk about their mental health.

Companies like Hims, who are dedicated to supporting men with their mental health, have become more popular in recent years. Hims doesn’t take insurance, and only charges $25 for the first month of a prescription medication to treat depression or anxiety. It’s a cheaper option for people without insurance and offers virtual therapy sessions for $99.

These types of businesses typically have a variety of services and options for men to get the support they’re looking for. Combining this kind of resource with education and conversation can help change begin.

“It won’t happen overnight and usually takes time, but in my experience, all men have the capacity to unlearn the beliefs we were taught growing up,” Adams says.

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