This month, November, is Men’s Health Month. Let’s use this occasion to increase conversations about caring for ourselves and each other. Usually, the Movember movement focuses on health issues like prostate and testicular cancer. Still, an even more critical issue we want to help amplify is the need to discuss men’s mental health.
Statistically, one of the things that would most likely take a man’s life is himself. Globally, women tend to have higher rates of depression diagnoses and are roughly three times more likely to attempt suicide than men. However, men show significantly higher rates of suicide and are two to four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Suicide is also the leading cause of death in men ages 15-29. Part of why male suicide rates are higher is because male suicide methods are often more violent, making them more likely to be completed before anyone can intervene.
The problem surrounding men’s mental health is a strong social stigma that negatively affects men. I’m talking about traditional gender roles and masculine ideals that discourage emotional expression and vulnerability among men.
Boys are taught from the time they are young how men should behave and portray masculine traits such as strength, bravery, dominance, and control. Men are often told to be tough, and asking for help or support when needed becomes challenging. As a result, they become reluctant to share their feelings and tend to mask their emotions as “stress” instead of sadness or hopelessness. And so, many depression diagnoses in men go unreported.
On average, one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five men will likely experience anxiety. And yet, these afflictions tend to be underdiagnosed in men. The problem may be compounded by the fact that men may show different depression symptoms than women, and most research on depression focuses on women more than men.
Experts at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stated that “Some men with depression hide their emotions and may seem to be angry, irritable, or aggressive, while many women seem sad or express sadness.”
Other behavioural signs to look out for in men are drinking or taking drugs, being controlling, violent, or showing abusive behaviour, engaging in risky behaviour such as drunk driving, and so on. Experts at the NIMH have also studied that men are more likely to see their doctors about physical symptoms such as digestive issues, racing heartbeat, or bad headaches than emotional symptoms. Look out for sleep disruptions, too – either insomnia or hypersomnia.
When depression in men is undiagnosed or underreported, men are more likely to self-treat or self-medicate their symptoms through alcohol or drug dependency as a maladaptive coping strategy. This can lead to substance abuse. Men are two times more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence, which is bad because alcohol can deepen depression.
It’s also time to re-examine how we deal with domestic violence. Vilifying and ostracising men will not stop this circle of violence until we help them address their frustrations’ root causes.
To overcome this negative stigma around men’s mental health, we must first normalise conversations about it. We must be more accepting and open to listening when our fathers, brothers, uncles, male friends, or colleagues express their feelings. But if the men in your life still choose to remain closed off, try watching for signs of depression based on the symptoms above. If you notice any of those symptoms, reach out to that person – ask him what you can do to help. We need to be ready to listen and provide the required support.
As for men, depression is one of the most common conditions professionals see; continuing to suffer in silence does not make you any more of a hero, nor will it make you seem stronger. I had to learn this the hard way.
So if you’re experiencing any depression or suicidal symptoms, say these words aloud, “I think I might be depressed,” or “I think I need to seek help.” That wasn’t so hard? Now repeat it. And now, think of who you can express those words too – it could be your family, bros, doctor, or therapist. Whoever it is, I want you to express those feelings to them today. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today.
I know scheduling a therapy session or opening up to those closest to you can seem daunting. Or perhaps professional treatment might also be out of your reach due to the burden of heavy costs and insurance not providing mental health coverage. But fret not; thanks to AI and technology, there is a growing pool of mental health resources online that are readily available at your fingertips.
At Naluri, we provide support in different forms to suit other preferences. For those who want to pick up the phone and speak to a professional, the Naluri helplines are available 24/7. Please call if you need immediate assistance.
For those who prefer a digital app to chat with healthcare professionals, get started with the Naluri app. The Naluri app features affordable digital programs that provide professional and personalised coaching from certified health experts based on your physical, emotional, and mental needs. It helps you keep track of your progress, goals, and achievements and enables you to understand the state of your mind and body.
And if a more traditional approach suits you best, book a session to see a member of the Naluri team.
So to all the men reading this, don’t try to tough it out alone because the consequences may be devastating. Please reach out.
Now, more than ever, let’s keep things positively personal.