(Part 1 of a series on behavioral health issues affecting men)
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” -Marcus Aurelius
Let me just start by saying MEN HAVE ISSUES! We do, we really do and most of us aren’t talking about it. It’s not manly for guys to talk about their problems, it makes them look weak! Right?? WRONG!! Instilled from an early age, boys are told to stop crying, suck it up, “rub some dirt on it!”. Basically they learn to suppress their feelings because society frowns on men who may not be able to control themselves or be productive members of society. It is assumed that men will just work and provide for their families, and any problems will be “handled” or ignored. The “Strong Silent-Type” is an image that is admired and attractive. Admired and attractive to who you ask? Well, other men and women of course!! Is that what makes a good man?? At least that was the way of the world for far too long, but times are changing, slowly, but they are changing.
According to SAMHSA, the number of men who seek treatment for mental health concerns is significantly lower than women. About 14% of American men experience some type of mental health issue with 3% facing serious mental health issues. And those are just the guys who step forward!! Sixty percent of men with depression seek treatment compared to 72% of women. And the suicide rate is 4x higher for men than women. (According to the CDC, the suicide rate for white men 85 or older is higher than any other US demographic). Men over 50 years of age are more likely to seek help for mental health issues than men between the ages of 18-25. I sense that will change over time as the stigma of mental illness continues to be addressed, and the ease of access to mental health services improves.
Why aren’t more men in counseling?
- Societal and cultural norms
- Rigid beliefs about masculinity
- Difficulty trusting and opening up people (certainly not to a stranger!)
- Stigma around men asking for help (and I don’t just mean asking for directions!)
- Men tend to minimize or not recognize their emotional pain, causing it to build up.
- Men more likely to externalize emotional pain through anger and aggression, or high risk behaviors.
I work with men on a variety of issues including anxiety/stress, depression, relationship issues, and anger. They are usually apprehensive and guarded when they first come in, skeptical about the process and how therapy will really help them. The beginning of the session I believe is the most critical for engaging men in treatment. They need to feel comfortable and secure enough to open up to me. My approach is very down-to-earth and relatable, just 2 guys talking; I use a little humor and some sports metaphors to put them at ease. By the end of the session they are more relaxed and often times, they have revealed more about themselves than they expected to. And that is where their journey begins to be the good man they were meant to be.
New Blog Series
Look for new posts on different topics for men, such as Men and Depression, Men and Anxiety, Fatherhood & Family, Relationships and Domestic Violence, Men and Addiction, and Sex Issues.