Why is it that most men will shy away from help, but are the first ones to try and fix the problem? Is it something we are taught or is this something that has been in our genes forever? Most men have this vision or this perception of what a man should be. This is usually a man who is strong and powerful, one who never appears to be sick, depressed, or anxious. But have we really ever stopped to think about how this idea of what a man should be can put pressure on men and lead to undue stress? Why is it so wrong for us to open up and express how we feel, even if it makes us vulnerable?
While fulfilling this ideal may seem rewarding, it comes with a price if we are not careful to find some sort of balance. Lets look at some things that can be effected by the quiet crisis of men and the stigma of mental health.
- Responsibility is key to any type of success, whether it's in business, home, or life in general. When we push towards this ideal that has been placed in front of us we lose touch with those things that can matter most. I am talking about family, friends, and work. If we just push our feelings and emotions to the side and tell ourselves, 'this makes me weak', we are just trying to sweep real issues under the rug; which could be a sign of something more severe. Anything from failing relationships to depression can lead to more drastic consequences. On average, about 87 men commit suicide everyday. If we can just take responsibility for our feelings and emotions as soon as they occur this could be a big step in decreasing this number down.
- Ego can appear to drive the most successful and determined of men. This has also been the driver to many failures as well. When it comes to mental health, men struggle with a huge battle against their own ego. This can be especially harmful because of the impact it has on not only the individual, but those around them. As a result of having a huge ego, amazing opportunities could be missed as well as pushing others. One's ego can get in the way at any age. For example, most don't realize that some of the highest rates of depression occur in men between the ages of 40 and 55.
- Reality is something we all would like to believe we have a firm grasp on, but how do know when do? I guess there is no real definitive answer, but a step towards this answer is having as much knowledge and facts to back up our claims. While most men shy away from mental health and related issues, we don't realize how much we are really missing out on as a society. There are a lot of good sources to help us as men better understand and feel more comfortable opening up. Some quick starts might be looking at how research has shown that men are known to see positive effects when talking in groups, or how men are less likely to report pain to females, and are more likely to fear a bias from a female therapist. For a more individualistic perspective, check out this article about Brandon Marshall, widereceiver for the New York Jets. In this article, he talks about the stigma and some of his own battles with mental health.
So, it goes without saying that we, as men, do struggle but this does not mean we are weak or useless. Rather this is a sign that we are human and need to work to be better in our mental health as much as we work to be better in all other aspects of our lives that matter to us. Because if we are not healthy - physically and mentally - enough to take care of our selves how will we ever be strong enough to take care of those that mean the most to us?
John Vander Ven, LPCMH