Mental health can be a stressful, difficult subject for men. For many, the battle with depression is a silent struggle, made all the harder by “social norms” that mental health issues are a sign of weakness. For Men’s Health Week, the Chicago Dental Society is bringing articles and information to men and their loved ones to help raise awareness of preventable health problems.
Generations of men were raised believing they should be able to control their feelings, that “real men” shouldn’t need to reach out for help, so admitting they are fighting mental health disorders is an uphill battle.
Such struggles are still too common. Anger, shame, fear of stigma and other defenses kick in as a means of self-denial and prevent men from seeking crucial treatment. There’s little surprise then that men account for 3.5 times the number of suicides as women, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.
Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, unexplained aches and other physical problems, and sudden engagement in high-risk activities all point to signs of mental disorders. But men have low rates of using mental health services, according to Psychology Today magazine.
The Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention reports that middle-aged men represent four out of every five suicides in the United States, and older men ages 75 and up have the highest rates of suicide per 100,000.
Men living in small towns and rural areas have particularly high rates of suicide as do minority men, veterans, young American Indians and gay men. As traditionally male-dominated industries have declined, the “male breadwinner” role has declined as well, leaving men unemployed or underemployed and with a diminished sense of pride, purpose and meaning.
Another common factor is a perceived feeling of social rejection, alienation or isolation. Men struggling after a divorce are at a higher risk of suicide.
Substance abuse is another sign of mental health struggles. Occurring at a rate of 3 to 1 compared to females, substance abuse is often known as “slow-motion suicide.” Unemployment and divorce also are key triggers.
“Suicide is preventable,” says Richard McKeon, Chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services’ Center of Mental Health Services.
“Increasing social connectedness, receiving care for behavioral health and physical health problems, reducing access to lethal means, helping people find a sense of purpose and meaning in life — all of these can be effective in preventing suicide,” he said.
As more men and celebrities speak out about their struggles, the stigma is declining. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and pop star Shawn Mendes have come forward with their depression and anxiety, clearing a path to talk about men’s mental health.
A powerful graphic packed with information about mental health is at: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/infographic-mental-health-men.
Tomorrow: Men and the value of exercise.