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Mental Illness in Men: Breaking the Stigma

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Mental Illness in Men: Breaking the Stigma


The cultural and societal stigmas surrounding mental health for both men and women are no secret. For women, the stigma is centered around a false self-image formed by how they believe others perceive them.

The stigma for men stems from being treated differently and the fear that having a mental illness somehow diminishes their masculinity. Family dynamics encourage boys to be tough and never show emotion or vulnerability from a young age. In turn, boys grow up to be men who struggle with regulating and expressing emotions, aggression, and vulnerability.

While women seek mental health treatment at a much higher rate than men do, men have a much higher risk of developing mental health and substance abuse disorders than women. Substance abuse disorders can be extremely dangerous and often fatal when left untreated.

Mental health problems can materialize in different ways depending on gender, among many other things. Culturally and historically, men are taught that seeking help from a professional is considered shameful and weak.

This idea is prevalent in men’s mental health challenges and is a significant factor in why they hesitate to seek treatment.

What is Toxic Masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is the cultural pressure for men to behave a certain way. It refers to the idea that men must act tough, aggressive, and dominant to be considered “manly” or “macho.” This idea is harmful and damaging for men who don’t fit into this role and try to force themselves to fit the mold that society expects of them.

How does toxic masculinity affect mental illness in men?

The cultural pressures of toxic masculinity include the following traits;

  • Not asking for or accepting help
  • Being physically strong and aggressive
  • Avoid showing emotion or weakness
  • Acceptance is achieved through power and respect from others

Studies have shown that men’s risk-taking behavior and lack of willingness to seek help are directly correlated to the negative health conditions and outcomes that men experience.

When young boys grow up learning to suppress emotions, hide their feelings, and never ask for help, they are likely to exhibit those same behaviors throughout adulthood. When faced with conflict or adversity, men often resort to violence in response because anger and aggression are the only emotions they believe to be acceptable.

Toxic masculinity encourages the unhealthy stigma that men should not ask for or accept help or support of any kind. Men are encouraged to suffer in silence, deal with their problems by sweeping them under the rug, and never show weakness by admitting they have a problem.

What are the dangers of toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity affects men in different ways, but the most common effects include violence and aggression, an increased stigma around mental health treatment, and a negative impact on mental health issues.

Encouraging men to be tough and manly by ignoring emotional and physical symptoms or mental health issues can be extremely dangerous. It teaches the idea that force and violence are the answers rather than communication and openness. When men avoid getting help or seeking treatment, the trauma or stress they are experiencing will most likely worsen, leading to depression, anxiety, and often suicide.

Lack of treatment can also lead to reckless behavior, which includes alcohol or substance abuse, dangerous driving, physical violence, unsafe sex, and sexual assault, among many others.

Understanding Mental Health in Men

Each year, nearly six million men are affected by depression in the United States. Men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women. Consequently, men are twice as likely to misuse drugs as women.

The numbers are concerning and they show just how problematic and dangerous it is for men to avoid seeking mental health treatment to improve and manage their mental illness.

Traditional gender roles and masculine norms are pivotal in how men behave, think, and take action. We see this in phrases like “tough it out” and “boys will be boys,” encouraging men to ignore their pain and suffering rather than talk about it and also sending the message that men can misbehave, break the rules, and get away with it.

If we follow these masculine norms, we will see firsthand how men’s mental health will suffer, particularly in those ages 36 to 55. Here’s how men can be negatively impacted:

  • Worsened depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, substance-use disorder
  • Greater health risks, particularly for cardiovascular disease
  • Intimacy issues and trouble staying in relationships
  • Homophobia and anti-feminism
  • Lack of confidence in health care professionals or seeking help
  • Increased stress and psychological distress

When left untreated, mental illness can cause lasting negative effects on a person’s well-being, both physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health in Men

Normalizing the treatment of mental health issues is the first step in reducing any stigma or societal pressure that men feel. We’ve come a long way in acknowledging that mental illness is serious, harmful, and dangerous when left untreated; it’s also critical to provide support to those less likely to seek treatment.

Dismantling the behaviors and societal norms is a marathon, not a sprint. It may seem impossible to play a role in changing the narrative, but even the smallest steps are still actions moving in forwarding motion.

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When is it time to ask for help?

If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health, consider seeking professional help. A licensed therapist or counselor will be able to support addressing the symptoms and uncovering the underlying causes of mental illness so they can start feeling like themselves again. Some of the signs and symptoms that indicate that professional intervention might be required are:

  • Sudden change in mood
  • Decrease in work performance
  • Irritable
  • Weight fluctuations
  • A loss of pleasure in activities that used to bring joy, sadness, depression
  • A decline in physical health such as headaches or gastrointestinal issues

The hardest part is taking the first step and asking for help. There are several treatment options that would be able to help men address their mental health concerns, such as residential treatment, outpatient programs, and individual counseling. Each offers varying degrees of clinical support depending on the severity of their symptoms ranging from group therapy, case management, psychiatry, life skills, and more.

If you are unsure what treatment would be best, call a member of our team today 866.680.0969 and they can help guide you in the decision-making process

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Mental Health Treatment at Clear Recovery Supports Male Mental Health

For men experiencing mental health problems caused in part by societal expectations, help from a mental health professional is highly advisable. If you, a family member, or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.

If you’re struggling with mental illness, know that you are not alone. Clear Telehealth offers virtual programs geared towards men, specifically those who are struggling with depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Clear Telehealth offers support groups and professional help for mental health conditions including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. We provide a clear path to mental health treatment for men that will help them regain mental clarity and wellness to live happy, productive lives.

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