“Just man up.”
This is a phrase men often hear when they show a sign of ‘weakness.’ Men are taught from an early age to be tough, to be strong, and to never let their guard down; they are conditioned to deal with things on their own, because asking for help shows vulnerability. However, this societal perception of masculinity is impacting the mental health of the men in our community with devastating consequences.
A common misconception is that women are far more likely to experience mental health disorders compared to men. In actuality, 10% of men experience symptoms of mental health disorders and substance dependencies compared to 11% of women. Even more alarming, every 4 out of 5 suicides are male. Despite the high prevalence of mental health disorders in the male population, men are less likely to seek help for fear of being labelled as ‘weak’ or ‘cowardly.’ There is an underlying issue here that stems from toxic masculinity and lack of education, and it is a huge problem that cannot be ignored.
In addition to the mental component of mental illnesses, there are also accompanying physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, digestive issues, and headaches. However, it is more likely for men to seek professional help for the physical symptoms while dismissing the emotional distress. In a study conducted by the NIMH, men described experiencing both physical and emotional symptoms of depression, but did not make the connection between the two and did not consider themselves depressed. This leads to serious mental health disorders going under-diagnosed and untreated. Further, this can lead to aggressive behaviours and act as a gateway to alcohol and other drugs as unhealthy coping mechanisms, which can manifest into substance abuse. It is important to recognize mental illnesses as serious health issues that must be treated, rather than a weakness that challenges manhood.
Someone who is struggling with their mental health may exhibit:
Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities they used to enjoy
Changes in mood, appetite, or weight
Differences in work performance
Physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, headaches, and stomach issues
If you notice someone experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, the best thing that you can do is show your support and help connect them to the right resources. There are many support groups and organizations that offer in-person, online, and over-the-phone counselling services. It’s important to remind them that asking for help can be a sign of strength rather than weakness.
If you are reading this and have personally battled a mental health disorder, we invite you to share your story to help reduce the stigma around mental health. An online platform created by the Behind My Mind Campaign fosters a safe space for individuals of all ages to speak openly about their mental health journeys, with the goal of raising awareness for mental health and illnesses, and inspiring others to do the same. Every story is worth sharing, and you can share yours by visiting www.behindmymind.com.
Join us as we battle the culture surrounding masculinity and mental health. It’s 2021 and it’s time for some change.
Men's Mental Health. Canadian Mental Health Association. Accessed November 5, 2021. https://toronto.cmha.ca/mens-mental-health/
Mental illness. Mayo Clinic. Published June 8, 2019. Accessed November 5, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968