Mental illness doesn’t see gender, age, ethnicity, or income level. It does not discriminate. Yet, due to societal norms and conditioning, men may be less likely to reach out for help. There are also unique risk factors that contribute to the prevalence of males with mental illness.
Here, we’re exploring the issues surrounding men’s health and the stigma men face when they speak out or try to get help.
How Men Experience Mental Illness
Although mental illness affects all genders, men have a unique experience. They’re conditioned by society to be leaders, breadwinners, and to appear “manly.”
When experiencing depression, men may become more irritable or aggressive than their female counterparts who don’t have the pressure to avoid looking weak. According to CAMH, men suffering from depression are harder to recognize than women. Irritability, aggression, and anger disguise underlying feelings of hopelessness.
Men between the ages of 19 and 35 are expected to start successful careers and make money. This age group also includes new fathers who are experiencing the pressures of being a Dad and supporting a family. Men can experience post-partum depression like women, but most resources for this disorder only target women. Men are also more likely to report heavy alcohol use than women, at 34.4 per cent of males between the ages of 18 and 34.
Mental Health Stigma for Men
As pointed out in this article from the CBC, our society doesn’t spend much time talking about men’s mental health. We fundraise for prostate cancer, but little is done to combat mental illness and suicide. Yet 75 percent of suicides in Canada are completed by men.
The reasons for men not speaking out about their mental health struggles or asking for help vary. Our society treats those who ask for help as weak, a trait that men are conditioned to avoid exhibiting. This pushes their suffering further into the shadows.
Men also have the added pressure of appearing strong in their careers. 28 per cent of men believe that speaking out about their mental health could lead to losing their jobs. Dr Ari Zaretsky, one of Eli’s Place’s Professional Advisors, discusses how men are conditioned to control their emotions and base their worth on occupational and financial success. Losing their jobs, losing promotions, and being disrespected by colleagues are all strong motivations to stay quiet.
Mental Health Resources for Men
If you or a man in your life is suffering from mental illness, here are some excellent resources that can help.