When someone finds themselves struggling with — or even debilitated by — a mental health condition, they may hesitate to reach out for help. Even today, the stigma around mental health remains, despite all the media attention devoted to the topic.
On average, women are more apt to seek out professional help when experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression or any mental health issues. Men are often less prone to reach out for help due to the societal pressures that require them to be stoic and hide their emotions. So, what does mental health stigma look like and how does it affect men specifically?
What is mental health stigma?
Stigma refers to a generally negative societal attitude towards any particular circumstance, quality or person. With regard to mental health, it’s associated with mental health conditions or substance use disorders being seen as a sign of individual weakness. Even though a lot of these attitudes are shifting, a few continue to persist.
This stigma prevents many individuals who need help from even admitting that help is needed, much less actually seeking it out. No one wants to be judged or viewed negatively, so they continue to suffer in silence. Individuals who suppress their need for treatment may experience deteriorating mental health, putting them at an increased risk for substance use disorder or even suicide.
Outdated attitudes toward mental health
Even though there is still a long way to go in reducing or eliminating the stigma around mental health, we can all hopefully say good riddance to these antiquated attitudes:
- You must be a weak person:This falsehood impacts men in particular, as they are expected to always be strong and in control.
- You can’t be fixed: Huge advances in mental health treatment mean a mental illness that was once hopeless can now be treated and managed.
- Treatment is for severe mental illness only: People used to believe that treatment was reserved for the sickest patients. Now it is accepted that treatment can help anyone.
- Something must be wrong with you: Until recently, people believed that mental illness meant a person was flawed.
How mental health stigma impacts men
While both men and women can be victims of stigma, men are particularly vulnerable to its effects. Men often associate the need for psychiatric help with an admission of weakness. Men are also far less comfortable than women about opening up and sharing deeply personal feelings with a therapist.
Men are often taught to be strong, resilient and to not show their emotions. But these traits can end up causing them harm when they become a barrier for what could be life-saving treatment. In fact, although far more women are said to suffer from depression, suicide rates are much higher among men.
Additionally, men seem more sensitive to perceived stigma, with regards to any harm that may happen to their reputation. The idea that mental health issues could possibly become a topic of casual discussion at the water cooler is often viewed as unacceptable. Indeed, the possibility that a need for mental health treatment might sideline their career is a major concern.
Turning the tide is possible, but requires that we all become more compassionate and engaged with each other — to look out for one another and not be hesitant to ask if someone we care about may need some help. Both men and women will benefit as a result.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.