Mental Health for Men by Moumita Nandy

I have experienced many men who do not want to ask for help because they are afraid of looking weak or stupid .It can be very difficult to admit you are struggling as a man. Logically, you know that everyone gets down, has a problem from time to time, or finds it difficult to cope, but it often feels like you are the only person who cannot seem to handle it.  You lie awake at night alone, wondering why you can’t be as in control as you should be and desperately trying not to let anyone else see how you are really doing.

Men are taught from an early age, either by cultural referencing around them or by direct parenting, to be tough, not to cry, and to crack on .We train soldiers and professional warriors, and then expect them to be emotionally intelligent enough to open up when they need help. Worse, we expect them never to need help. We must bring vulnerability, as a core principle of emotional strength, into the framework of masculinity.

I want men to know that their internal struggles are just as valid as any other struggle, and these do not make them less of a man. What I am finding, though, is many men don’t know how to ask for help.

The Stigma around Men’s Mental Health

A big factor in this issue is the damaging stigma around mental health problems. 1 in 4 experience a mental health problem each year, yet the stigma around them is greater than with physical illness. This stigma tends to affect men disproportionately, and societal expectations and traditional gender roles are thought to play a big part in this. The concept of ‘manliness’ as being strong and in control can mean it is seen as a weakness to ask for help. If men feel a pressure to appear strong, this can stop them from opening up. This can both cause and exacerbate mental health problems. For this reason, government bodies and charities, such as Movember, are working to change societal concepts of masculinity in relation to mental health and asking for help.

Young depressed male patient hiding face with hands sitting on couch at the psychotherapist, stressed and crying, having problems, debts, nervous breakdown, feeling bad and hopeless

As discussed, social pressures often mean that men find it harder to open up and discuss feelings of vulnerability or ask for help. But the evidence is clear that bottling up these feelings and resorting to sometimes destructive coping mechanisms can make things worse. If you’re suffering with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue, you are not alone. There are many options to help you deal with your issue, and the sooner you seek help the better.

As men get older, their lives tend to focus around work, family and financial security. If they’re lucky, they may maintain older friendships, but new ones can be very hard to form. The lockdown has further complicated social connection. Reports say stress and panic attacks from Indian professionals working at home rose 35-40% in April over previous months, mainly due to social isolation. This underlines what experts have been saying for some time: chronic loneliness and mental illness are closely connected. What’s worse: isolation puts you at greater risk for things like alcohol abuse and suicide

Essentially, experts say, the messages men receive as children and up through adulthood discourage them from ever letting anyone know they need help. Although thankfully, this is starting to change.

Millions of people live with mental health issues ranging from social anxiety, OCD to the more menacing depression, schizophrenia and other disorders. There are clearly more conversations around mental health concerns but many still don’t have the courage to reach out and seek help. It may even be a harder battle for men who are asked to ‘man-up’ everytime they show vulnerability

Acceptance is a Struggle

Men struggle more to accept the fact that they have a mental health issue and that they need help. The complex gender dynamics, especially stereotypes, of our society makes them consider seeking help for better mental health contrary to the concept of being strong and becoming unsuitable for the role of a provider. As per estimates, nearly 250 Indian men died by suicide every day , a number that is more than double the number of women.

Happy outside, shamed inside. The versatility of man – opened emotions and hidden feelings. Caucasian man on black background with different faces of condition. Double exposure. Mental health.

Psychologists also want people to know that quite often alcohol dependence in men is less about self-control and more about an underlying mental health issue like depression. When family and friends tend to undermine the importance of taking mental health illness seriously, people find it tough to have the conversation and silently suffer – leading to poor habit, aggression and a nagging feeling of sadness.

For men, the warning signs of mental disorders include irritability, trouble focusing, tiredness or listlessness, aches and pains, alcohol or drug abuse and more. You may also experience other physical symptoms such as sleeplessness and unexplained weight loss or gain. If you find yourself exhibiting any of these signs over a period of time, it may be time to get help.

What do the stats say?

Interestingly, 52 per cent people feel that men get most affected by financial issues, followed by work, relationships and a meager 5 per cent chose help. Usually, marriage acts as a boost to mental health ——-it provides a companion and a friend that reduces the chance of depression. However, marital strife, divorce, and death of the spouse can disrupt these functions of marriage. With changing social norms and reversal of traditional roles in a family, the expectation of men and women from a marriage is changing fast. Many men struggle a lot to accept these changes, and those who are harassed by their wife and her relatives find it all the more difficult they fear social stigma and are not at peace, either at home or outside.

Depressed guy visiting doctor, having complaints about health or mental problems. Focus on doctors hand holding clipboard with patient card, psychologist starts working with troubled man. Close up

It is thought that one in eight men have a common mental health problem, yet research shows that men often struggle to discuss or seek help for psychological issues.

Men and women are affected differently by mental health issues. For example, it’s thought that women are more likely to experience common mental disorders. Nonetheless, this does not mean that men are immune to mental illnesses. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, stress and low self-esteem, as well as conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are all experienced by men too. In fact, mental health problems are extremely common among men. If you are experiencing issues, you are absolutely not alone.

About the Author and Psychologist – Ms. Moumita Nandy

Having completed my MSc in Clinical Psychology from Pune University I have been associated with Cancer Institute Chennai and Tata Medical Center, Kolkata for psychological morbidities in cancer care. I had also worked part time with an NGO named Reach Out For Life, Pune where I specially worked on Suicidal Awareness, Abuse and Addiction in all age groups. Furthermore, I pursued advanced Diploma in forensic psychology and criminal profiling & integrated clinical hypnotherapy. I am also trained as an expressive therapist and strong believer and practitioner of Mindfulness and EFT. Trained in CBT and REBT , I have been a consultant clinical psychologist for 6 years . Being associated with Mind Vriksha, a psychiatry clinic and as motivational speaker with Santulan . I have also done many workshops on Anxiety and Depression with several corporate house like pantaloons, Sunlife . I am also an active member on the ecell panel of TISS. I am currently associated with a government Sponsored projects such as, national helpline for transgender community and alongside with Netram and ministry of social empowerment.Senior consultant at mind vriksha clinic. I am currently pursuing phd in clinical psychology with a vision to increase awareness in the field of mental health across the country and executing the same via channels and initiatives.

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