Men’s Mental Health

Why do men not talk about their mental health?

Let’s start with statistics:

  • Three times as many men as women die by suicide.

  • Depression and suicide are ranked as leading causes of death among men, yet they’re still far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women.

  • Men aged 40–49 have the highest suicide rate.

  • Mental Health America reports that 6 million men are affected by depression in the United States every year.

  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women.

  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts the annual number of men dying due to alcohol-related causes at 62,000, compared to 26,000 women.

  • Men are two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women.

  • Negative experiences in previous attempts to discuss mental health with family and friends lead to men not seeking help.

  • Men may also legitimately fear negative financial, employment, and interpersonal repercussions if they disclose their mental health issues.

Mental health conditions don’t discriminate. People of all genders can experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. But they may look different in men.

Stereotyping and Labeling

Some research indicates that men with mental health issues may be stereotyped as dangerous, unpredictable, and threatening workplace morale in male-dominated workplaces.

A “label” of mental illness can damage the self-esteem of men, as well as social interactions. Many men fall prey to the false idea that they should be “tough enough” to fix all their problems on their own. They worry that by showing vulnerability, even in the case of physical illness, they may lose their place with others.

Unemployment, precarious employment, and job stress/strain are risk factors for adverse mental health outcomes, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. These risk factors appear to have a more substantial impact on men’s mental health.

According to WebMD, women often respond to symptoms of depression with a more recognizable affect — they might appear disheartened, sad, or express that they feel worthless. Although men can demonstrate this as well, we are also more likely to present a more irritable affect — we might respond with anger, frustration, impulsivity, or a variety of other behaviors that aren’t always considered in the context of depression. In fact, these are often dismissed as “acting out.”

Evidence suggests that this gender differential may be due to these factors.

1. Men typically remain the primary breadwinner for their families. Their income is essential to support the household, meaning that unemployment can have severe consequences for their standard of living and quality of life.

2. Men tend to work longer unsociable hours, meaning absence from family and friends. In addition, men tend to work in more dangerous occupations, suggesting more significant exposure to hazardous psychosocial or physical workplace conditions, creating job stress and job strain.

3. Men draw purpose, meaning, and positive identity from their role as productive workers and family breadwinners; this status is respected by broader society, while male unemployment remains highly stigmatized.

When is it time to ask for help?

If you or someone you care about may be struggling, look for these signs that indicate a need for outside assistance. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these are some of the warning signs:

  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

  • Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Sadness or hopelessness

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

  • Increased worry or feeling stressed

  • Aches, headaches, digestive problems without a clear cause

  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

  • Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs

  • Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

  • Engaging in high-risk activities

  • Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

How Can I Help If I Know Someone With These Symptoms?

If you are concerned about a friend, you can do things to help.

  • Let them know you’re there to listen to them without judgment.

  • Someone experiencing mental health problems may find it hard to reach out, so try to keep in touch. A text message or a phone call could make a big difference.

  • Find out about local services such as talking therapy or support groups. See if there are any specifically for men if you think they’d prefer that.

  • Please help them to get help. Reassure them it’s okay to ask for help and that support is out there.

It can seem like an uphill battle to reframe the issues you’re experiencing in the context of “mental health.” If this describes you, try thinking about it as just another problem to fix — another car part to replace, a wall to patch up, or a sick kid to take care of — by approaching it this way, you may start to find meaningful ways to feel better.
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