Mental Health Stigma: 10 Ways It Affects Men & 6 Things To Do About It

By Reniel

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Last Updated: January 11, 2022

“...I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well...” – Prince Harry

Mental health is a topic that has gained increasing attention over the past few years both in media, society, and the workplace. However, there is still an alarming level of stigma attached to admitting you have a mental health challenge – especially for men.

This stigma doesn’t only arise from the misconception of what mental health challenges are (i.e. why they exist and how they affect individuals), but also from expectations, demands, and gender roles. 

 

Talking About Mental Health Issues Actually Shows Strength

Many people still believe that mental health challenges such as depression or anxiety are a result of a lack of personal fortitude – hence, those who suffer from this challenge are generally seen as weak, not strong enough, or broken.  

When you combine this faulty perception with the prevailing patriarchal views and toxic masculinity that exist in many societies today, what you get is a scenario where men are less likely to open up – for fear of being seen as weak or “feminine”.

This stigma isn’t only external but also internal. A lot of guys are not only afraid or ashamed of what others might think but actively suppress any thought of considering it an issue. Men suppress voicing out their pain exactly how they suppress tears, or fear – thinking it is an act of manliness.

According to a 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6% of men in the United States are affected by depression. Yet, the Mayo Clinic states that male depression is often undiagnosed for four reasons

  • Failure to recognize depression
  • They downplay the signs and symptoms
  • Reluctant to discuss depression symptoms
  • They resist mental health treatment

In fact, the staggering scale and extent of this stigma coupled with the proliferation of mental health illnesses like depression have led to the adoption of terms like “Silent Epidemic” in the description of the state of affairs.

But this need not be so. People who have medical conditions – whether physical or mental – deserve care, attention, and treatment. And there are indeed treatments for mental health challenges. 

“No one should keep a stiff upper lip at the expense of their own well-being” – Prince William

 

10 Effects of Mental Health Challenges on Individuals

Ignoring mental health challenges can lead to a lot of impediments in our everyday life, including:

  1. General weakness
  2. Lack of enthusiasm
  3. Insomnia (i.e. inability to fall asleep)
  4. Abnormal weight changes – weight gains or losses that are too sudden and something dangerous
  5. Sadness
  6. Hopelessness (this may present itself as loss of enjoyment of hobbies and activities)
  7. Physical Pain – including headaches, stomach issues, and chest pain, amongst other spasms. 
  8. Diminished performance in work due to exhaustion, lack of concentration, or lack of enthusiasm
  9. Reduced libido
  10. Addictions (including substance abuse, gambling, sex, etc.)

Another major challenge men face is in the nature of the expression of their mental health illnesses. Whilst women experiencing mental health challenges often get withdrawn and interact less with people, men may grow angrier and generally more aggressive.

The result is that the typical indications of mental health challenges portrayed on media may not resonate with them, so they won’t consider their struggles to be mental health-related.

Hence, they may find more negative coping mechanisms – for instance, violence and substance abuse – because they may not understand their challenges.

 

What Can Be Done? (How To Reduce Mental Health Stigma For Men)

1. Advocacy

When individuals who have experienced, or who understand the challenges of mental health speak up about it, and against the stigma attached, it both raises awareness about the harmful effects of the stigma, and also inspires more people to stand up.

This can be done on an individual level, but the greater the influence of the individual, the greater the effect this approach has.

2. Education

This involves the control of factual information in the educational systems to correct misinformation, and contradicting negative attitudes and beliefs about the condition. This is similar to how sex education has been brought into curriculums.

3. Literacy Campaigns

This involves raising public awareness for the rights and consideration of those who might be facing such challenges. 

4. Contact

This involves ingeniously bringing the affected (i.e. those with mental health challenges) together with the unaffected. When we simply share stories with each other, we can better understand what the other person is dealing with.

The result would be an increase in empathy and understanding amongst both parties. It is important to note that lack of contact inspires distrust, misunderstanding, fear, discomfort, and ultimately hatred.

5. Peer Support

This approach involves recruiting the help of persons who had been affected before in service to those who are presently facing the same challenges.

This makes room for nonjudgmental, and nondiscriminatory service while giving them the opportunity to openly identify and speak about their own experiences. Hence, it helps both parties involved.

6. Legislative and Policy Change

This involves using legal and policy interventions to protect and support the stigmatized group (those who might be experiencing mental health challenges).

This requires the government to enact laws that protect the interest of those affected (maybe in terms of receiving support or being exempted from certain duties).

Are you taking care of yourself? 9 Things That Aren't Helping Your Mental Health

 

Mental Health is Important to All of Us

Tackling the challenge of mental health stigma requires all hands to be on deck.

It may require schools, governments, media, and individuals (both affected and unaffected) to pull resources together in order to redefine social norms and expectations. It may take a while, but with more and more prominent (and powerful) people stepping out for the cause, there is hope that the change will happen sooner. 

On the other hand, if you are affected, do not hesitate to seek the necessary help, because there is help, and things can be a whole lot better for you and your loved ones.           

If you or someone you know is concerned about your mental health, reach out to one of these resources for support.

Canada: The Canadian Mental Health Association

United States: Mental Health.gov

United Kingdom: Mental Health.org.uk

Australia: Mental Health Australia

Asia: Asian Mental Health Collective 

 

Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

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