Men commonly avoid seeking help for mental health issues and often try to handle them on their own. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe consequences, including risky behaviors, addiction, and suicide.
Understanding the reasons behind men’s reluctance to seek help from mental health professionals is crucial. Increasing men’s mental health awareness can lead to individuals and families helping men identify the root causes of mental health issues. It can also increase the likelihood of helping a loved one overcome challenges during a difficult time.
The findings of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of men’s willingness to seek help for their mental health concerns pointed to a stark reality: men are significantly less likely to seek help than women. NIH’s study identified several key reasons, including unique challenges men face in dealing with mental health, societal expectations, and mental health stigma.
Mental health can impact men’s relationships. For example, a depressive episode can cause stress and worry in a household, affecting spouses and children. But mental health extends beyond personal life: it can become detrimental to a man’s work life, including reduced motivation, lower productivity, and poor performance.
While significant strides have been made in men’s mental health awareness in recent decades, men often live with their mental health challenges left untreated. Every June is men’s mental health awareness month. It’s an opportunity to highlight the factors impacting men's health and the importance of seeking help.
This awareness is vitally important for those struggling with issues every day, including those directly affected by a mental health disorder and their families, friends, and coworkers. This guide offers information on how to help encourage loved ones to seek help.
Why Men’s Mental Health Is Important
Men in the U.S. face several health challenges. Leading causes of death for men include heart disease, cancer, and accidents, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As for mental health, statistics show that women are diagnosed with depression twice as much as men. However, suicide data from the CDC shows that the rate of suicide was four times higher for men than women in 2020.
Due to stigma, societal expectations, and stereotypes of masculinity, men often self-treat through addictive behaviors such as substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men use various illicit drugs more than women. Another unhealthy, risky behavior men use to cope with their mental health issues is compulsive gambling, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is an addictive behavior that affects more men than women. Additionally, findings from a study published in SSM — Qualitative Research in Health show correlations between mental illness and men’s intimate partner relationships, including a heightened risk of suicide.
Elevating men's mental health is a key step in supporting men with increased feelings of isolation and despair and breaking down the barriers that lead men to hesitate to seek help when they need it.
Resources About Mental Health Signs and Symptoms
The data suggests the men often overlook their mental health issues, so it's important for loved ones to be able to identify warning signs. The following resources provide information on what to look for as well as diagnosis and treatment for mental health disorders:
- American Psychiatric Association, "Warning Signs of Mental Illness": Shares the key signs and symptoms that point to a need to seek the help of a mental health professional, as well as how to take action.
- Mayo Clinic, "Mental Illness": Provides information on symptoms, signs, causes, risk factors, when to notify a doctor, complication, and prevention.
- Mental Health America, "Take a Mental Health Test": Includes several tests to screen for mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as links for various informational resources.
Consequence of Ignoring Men’s Health
Men who choose not to address mental health issues can experience negative physical impacts. Ignoring men’s mental health can impact relationships as well, which can exacerbate the mental health condition.
What are the causes of mental health issues for men?
Employment-related risk factors are common. Decent work can improve mental health. Work promotes good mental health by providing a way to earn money, a feeling of self-assurance, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. On the other hand, poor working conditions that involve discrimination, inequality, heavy workloads, dangerous activities, lower wage earnings, low control, and job insecurity or instability can jeopardize mental health.
Other risk factors include grief caused by divorce, separation, loss of a partner, loss of child custody, trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences, and disability.
The consequences of not addressing men’s health issues include the following:
Physical activity can improve both physical and mental health. According to the CDC, physical activity can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Physical activity must be balanced with leisure time. The results of a BMC Public Health study emphasize the significance of engaging in physical activity during leisure time, especially for men with a low level of positive mental health. Physical activities during leisure time should involve social interactions, particularly for men with lower mental well-being.
Personal and Professional Lives
Mental health conditions can make men feel isolated and frustrated, and men often struggle to find happiness and fulfillment in life. Family and friends may notice changes in behavior, such as increased irritability, social withdrawal, and decreased communication.
Unaddressed mental health can also impact work. It can lead to a lack of focus, motivation, and job satisfaction. Performance-wise, men may miss important deadlines or refuse to collaborate with others, which can impact the success of a business. In the end, this can result in lower productivity and even job loss.
Family and Relationships
Men refusing help can also impact those around them. It can lead to conflict, lack of communication, and misunderstandings. These factors can put a strain on relationships. For example, if a man is struggling with depression or anxiety, he may withdraw from his partner.
Additionally, parents with mental health conditions may become easily irritable and difficult to be around, leading their children to distance themselves from them. As a consequence, this may create a sense of distance and isolation from a father with a mental health condition, making it challenging to maintain a healthy connection.
Strategies for Improving Men’s Mental Health
At every level of society, it is an important strategy to raise men’s mental health awareness and work toward reducing stigma. It is also important to address the root causes of men’s mental health issues.
But undoubtedly, men must take the first step to address their mental health issues.
How can men improve their mental health? Research says diet and nutrition can impact mental well-being. This means men can improve their mental health by prioritizing self-care, which includes eating a balanced diet. They should also engage in regular exercise and get adequate sleep.
These strategies can help men overcome their mental health problems. Other strategies include meditation, mindfulness, and becoming part of a social circle.
While these strategies can mitigate some mental health issues, they will only work if men acknowledge that they need them. The biggest challenge remains: getting men to actually accept help.
Those trying to get a man in their lives to accept mental health care should create an environment that encourages them to talk about their well-being. Strategies to help a partner who won’t talk about their feelings include using positive body language, reassuring without judgment or criticism, and being responsive.
Mental Health Tools and Resources
The following resources provide information about tools and resources for men’s mental health, including where to find help.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, "Men’s Mental Health Month: Six Mental Health Tips for the Dudes in Your Life": Offers tips on how men can start becoming healthier about their mental health.
- GoodRx Health, "4 Types of Mental Health Support and Resources for Men": Includes a list of resources, from support groups to men’s mental health advocacy organizations.
- National Institute of Mental Health, "Help for Mental Illnesses": Offers information about getting immediate help amid a crisis, finding a health care provider, and joining a study.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Mental Health Treatment Works": Provides references and relevant resources that can help individuals learn about mental health and overcome challenges.
June Is Men’s Mental Health Month
Many mental health problems in men can be detected and treated early. But it is common for men to avoid seeking help. Enter Men’s Mental Health Month, an annual observance held each June, that helps raise awareness about the importance of mental health among men.
Its primary focus is to encourage men to speak up and seek help for mental health issues. Other aims include breaking the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and promoting a culture of openness and support for men who are struggling.
The following resources provide additional information about Men’s Mental Health Month.
- Mental Health America, "Infographic: Mental Health for Men": Includes an infographic with quick information about men, mental health, and mental illnesses.
- Parents, "We Need to Talk About Dad's Mental Health — And Not Just During Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month": Describes ways individuals can help support Mental Health Awareness Month, including open conversations and reading up about men’s mental health issues.
Prepare to Address Gaps in Mental Health Care
About 1 in every 5 American adults lived with a mental illness in 2020, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. While mental illness can affect anyone, men often don’t seek out help. This makes raising men’s mental health awareness an important topic amid the worldwide mental health crisis.
However, there are other factors that need to be addressed. In the U.S., for example, the lack of access to mental health care can lead to more severe and untreated mental illnesses. This is especially true for those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). An HPSA describes a geographic area with a shortage of mental health professionals. According to KFF, 156,827,282 people lived in designated HPSAs in 2022. Providing access to adequate mental health care for those living in HPSAs can help reduce the burden of mental illness. It can also improve the overall health of those communities.
Advanced education programs can prepare the next generation of mental health professionals and help address these shortages. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs), for example, are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in mental health care.
PMHNPs can diagnose mental illnesses, prescribe medications, and offer psychotherapy. They can also play a critical role in educating the public about mental health, including how to identify early warning signs of mental illness and how to support those experiencing mental health problems.