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Understanding Men’s Mental Health

Written by O'Connor Professional Group
Published on April 17, 2024

Imagine you have a friend, Mark, who seems to have it all—a loving family, a successful career, and a vast social network of friends and colleagues. He is confident, charismatic, and composed. He is always the life of the party and the type of friend you can depend on. Yet, one day, unexpectedly, you find out terrible news—Mark has died by suicide. You won’t believe it. Not Mark. How could this happen?

It turns out that beneath his facade of confidence and composure, Mark had been battling a variety of stressors that no one knew. Recently, because of mounting pressures at work, Mark found himself increasingly overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and despair. He feared seeking help would mark him as inadequate in the eyes of his peers and superiors, jeopardizing his professional reputation and standing. Unable to vocalize his inner turmoil, he turned to alcohol to self-medicate. What seemed like “the life of the party” was his way of seeking relief from the persistent anxiety that plagued him. As his cycle of silence and self-destructive behavior persisted, Mark’s mental health continued to deteriorate until he saw no other way out. 

Men’s Mental Health Challenges

Mark’s story serves as a powerful reminder of the challenges many men face with their mental health. Research has demonstrated that Mark’s experience is not an isolated one. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), men die by suicide at twice the rate of women, with high-income countries having the highest suicide rates. In the United States, for instance, men account for nearly 80% of all deaths by suicide, meaning that men die by suicide four times more than women (CDC). Elderly men, gay and bisexual men, and men of color are at greater risk. Annually, 6 million men experience symptoms of depression, with many going undiagnosed or untreated. These figures are alarming. They point to the need to break the stigma surrounding men’s mental health issues. Behind each statistic lies a complex story like Mark’s, one of silent suffering and unmet needs, urging us to destigmatize men’s mental health concerns. We must foster open dialogues with the men in our lives about seeking help and prioritizing their own emotional well-being. 

The Pressure to Conform—Wearing the Mask of Masculinity

In our society, there is a pervasive misconception that men should be stoic, unemotional, and resilient in the face of adversity. From a young age, boys are often taught to suppress their emotions and “toughen up.” Young boys—at home and on TV—see displays of male vulnerability met with dismissal. In their eyes, expressing vulnerability becomes a sign of weakness: “Real men don’t cry.” These messages lead many men to believe that seeking help for mental health concerns is somehow unmanly. Instead, they suppress their emotions and internalize their struggles. Unfortunately, this often leads to a culture of silence surrounding men’s mental health issues, preventing those who are struggling—like Mark—from seeking the help they desperately need.

The pressure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity can have severe consequences on men’s mental health. Many men resort to harmful coping mechanisms because they are unable to express their emotions openly. Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug misuse, becomes a common avenue for self-medication, providing temporary relief from emotional distress but ultimately exacerbating underlying problems. Additionally, some men may turn to risky behaviors such as reckless driving, aggression, or violence as outlets for pent-up frustration or as a way to prove their masculinity in the face of perceived challenges. These coping mechanisms not only fail to address the root causes of mental health issues but also contribute to a cycle of self-destructive behavior that can further isolate individuals from seeking the help they require.


Empowering Men to Seek Help

Breaking free from these harmful patterns requires challenging societal norms and promoting healthier avenues for men to address their mental health concerns. It’s time to challenge the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and create a space where men feel comfortable seeking help. This starts with open and honest conversations about the unique challenges that men face, including the pressure to conform to unrealistic expectations. 

Here are some tips to help you initiate tough conversations with your male friends and family members you are concerned about:

1. Simply start by asking how he’s feeling. Remember, most people often say “I’m fine” when they are struggling, so don’t be afraid to ask twice—“Really, how are you?” or even a “Tell me more.” Mention any specific changes you’ve noticed, such as going silent in the group chat or spending more time than usual at the bar. 

2. When you ask these questions, be sure to listen. Give him your full attention. Let him know you’re hearing what he’s saying without judgment. Remember, it’s not your job to diagnose problems or offer solutions, but asking questions shows you’re listening and want to help.

3. If necessary, encourage action, from changing daily habits such as diet, exercise, and sleep to seeking professional help through therapy, counseling, or support groups. Share resources like helplines or mental health websites that can provide valuable information and support. Reassure him that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Let him know that he doesn’t have to face his challenges alone and that people are willing to help him navigate his mental health journey.

4. Remember to check in. I suggest catching up in person if it’s been a while since your last conversation. If you can’t meet in person, make time for a phone call or drop a message. A simple gesture like checking in can show that you genuinely care about his well-being and are available to provide support when needed. By creating a safe space for open conversations and encouraging positive actions, you can empower men to prioritize their mental health and overcome obstacles that have prevented them from seeking help in the past.

Mental Health Communication

Through proactive communication strategies like these, while potentially challenging at first, we can help those around us who are struggling. Open dialogue can make people feel seen and heard and can reduce the stigma around men’s mental health issues.

Men’s mental health is a critical issue that demands our attention and support. As a society, we must work to dismantle the harmful stereotypes that prevent men from seeking help for their mental health issues. Men need to know that it’s okay to ask for support and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. By breaking down these barriers, we can create a more supportive environment for men to prioritize their mental well-being.

Schedule a Consultation with O’Connor Professional Group Today

By challenging societal norms, promoting open dialogue, and empowering men to seek help, we can address the issues surrounding men’s mental health and ensure that everyone has access to the care they need. Let’s start today, one conversation at a time, to ensure that no one has to endure their struggles alone. Contact us today at 617-910-3940 to learn more about how we can help you.

Nurse or doctor give man support during recovery or loss. Caregiver holding hand of her sad senior patient and showing kindness while doing a checkup at a retirement, old age home or hospital

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