Did you know that depression among men is often referred to as a "silent epidemic?"
Mental health issues in men frequently go unnoticed. In general, men are less likely to seek help if they are experiencing a decline in their mental state, or receive a mental health diagnosis.
For anyone, seeking mental health help can be daunting. It often requires us to provide care for ourselves in ways we are not used to, and be open and vulnerable. This can especially be difficult for some men as these traits may be viewed as less masculine and challenge our standards of masculinity.
While it is important to consider the role of these socially constructed gender norms, there are many other reasons why men may struggle in their mental health, be it personal circumstances, upbringing, generational factors, or a combination of these.
It should also be noted that our social and political environment also create health inequities for marginalized groups of men, and must always be considered in discussions about mental health and how we can all take action to promote change.
Below are some reflective questions for men, that may help in understanding one's own personal experience and conceptions about mental health:
- Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about mental health with family, friends, or others in your life?
- If a friend or loved one disclosed to you that they were struggling with their mental health, how would you view them and respond?
- What do you think are your biggest barriers to achieving mental health and wellbeing? Perhaps your job, relationships, living situation, negative life events, or your acceptance from others?
It can be hard to recognize when you are struggling and knowing what to do. Below are 5 potential strategies that you can use when you are ready:
1. Seek support
Know you are not alone and many men struggle with their mental health, but there are people out there who want to help. Support does not have to be from a professional (although that does help!).
Reaching out to someone you trust or following key people with lived experience on social media can also be an effective way to help emotionally support people who feel alone in their struggles.
2. Do what you enjoy
Although the pandemic has changed how we interact, take the time to find ways to engage in activities that are meaningful to you. Men who participate in simple pleasurable activities (video call with friends, walking with a loved one) show improved mental health and well-being.
3. Take care of your body
Taking care of your body will help with taking care of your mind! Planning a walk on your lunch break or making sure to eat breakfast can make a difference in your overall mental health. Find a way to exercise and eat that works for you.
4. Awareness of your thought patterns
For some situations, catching and changing a negative thought can help shift your perspective and offer peace of mind. Strategies like using humour have been shown to help men reframe negative thoughts and can truly improve overall well-being.
Challenging your biases concerning vulnerability and masculinity can also help your journey to healing and receiving support - this goes for everyone, not just men!
5. Raise awareness
Advocating for more services and supports for men living with mental illness and educating others by sharing important resources can be great for you or men in your life.
Taking the first step to getting help can be hard, whether it is using the strategies above or simply looking for more information.
This blog was written by Liv Biehn & Marie-Claire Lister, 2nd Year Occupational Therapy students from Queen’s University