A 28 year old male college student was found hanging in his hostel room a few hours after he had returned from lectures. It was an event that was least expected, least thought of, and sudden in onset. Many well – wishers blurted out in response to the incident. “I wish I knew what he was going through” “He would not open up to anybody” “He was a strong person, I never envisioned he would have done that” and a lot more. But then is the mental health of men considered at all? The term “Man Up” is an expression that is used in response to behavior of cowardice exhibited by a man. But then being a man does not come with a manual, like you have purchased a home appliance from the mall, or a new device from the gadget shop. It comes with years of experience, guidance, mistakes, corrections and the capacity to learn from all these errors.
Today we shall take the view of point of a man in response to events that happen to us, what to do when unexpected circumstances happen to them.
Misfortunes are unprecedented events that can happen to anyone at any given time, of varying frequencies and rates. Have you ever heard of the phrase “When problems come, they come in multiples?” I have heard the story of a man who lost his wife and three daughters in a car crash on their way from a holiday trip. His inattention and lack of concentration made him negligent of gas leak in his kitchen after he had made a quick dash to get himself tea after the unfortunate incident had happened. He lost his home and sustained third degree burns which rendered useless the function of his limbs. He was now a lone man with no one to call his own. No family, no house and no Him. Who was available to counsel him? How far would the counseling reach? What at all would be said to console him? To bring his wife and kids back from the dead? To erect his building from the remains of the ashes. To restore his skin and limbs back to Factory Settings? No!
You realize Life can come at you hard! With a clenched fist you can’t open, but then this is not the time for you to shelf yourself in. Because isolation breeds seclusion. Seclusion breeds thoughts of being a strong person when you have actually been weakened in your thoughts and your actions.
Good mental health is as important as oxygen. You need it to survive. But there are many different reasons why men are less likely to speak up about mental health problems like depression. I know one too many men who have been diagnosed of mental health issues but do nothing about it because they think admitting it makes them weak. They don’t want to go to the pharmacy and pick up an anti-depressant because they are afraid they will be judged. They don’t want to go to a therapist because they don’t want to share with a stranger. But if they don’t talk about it, it can be tough for friends or family members to know something is wrong. Men don’t always show the signs we often associate with depression, like sadness and hopelessness. Instead, we might appear angry or aggressive, making it easier for doctors and loved ones to miss the signs that something is wrong. As a result, men might miss out on the treatment they need to feel better.
Surveys from around the world show that men everywhere find it difficult to open up about mental health, though they are significantly more at risk at attempting suicide than women. While mental illnesses affect both men and women, the prevalence of mental illnesses in men is often lower than women. Men with mental illnesses are also less likely to have received mental health treatment than women in the past year. In their 2018 report, the WHO emphasize that cultural stigma surrounding mental health is one of the chief obstacles to people admitting that they are struggling and seeking help.
And this stigmatization is particularly pronounced in men.
“Described in various media as a ‘silent epidemic’ and a ‘sleeper issue that has crept into the minds of millions,’ with ‘chilling statistics,’ mental illness among men is a public health concern that begs attention.”
Societal expectations, that is, the ways in which men and women have been traditionally expected to behave may play a role in mental health. For men, societal expectations about how men “should” behave and what masculinity is includes the expectation that men be the breadwinners of their family, and that they display what have traditionally been perceived as masculine traits like strength, stoicism, dominance, and control. “I think part of it may be this macho thing,” Dr. Raymond Hobbs, a physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said. “A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They still see depression as a sign of weakness.”
Men may also be less likely to disclose their mental health issues to family members or friends, and more likely to use potentially harmful coping methods such as drugs or alcohol in response to distress. However, there is research to suggest that men will seek and access help when they feel that the help being offered meets their preferences, and is easily accessed, meaningful, and engaging.
When you are talking about toxic masculinity, “it really comes down to the way males are brought up. The way we’re taught to be strong and quiet, that was the model we were supposed to aspire to. But it’s also a model that is dysfunctional in many ways. This model of masculinity may be why men are more likely to underreport symptoms of depression. But certain, more traditionally masculine traits can also contribute to increased rates of depression and substance misuse which includes dependence on alcohol and marijuana. When people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions aren’t embracing healthy coping resources, they may turn to alcohol and other drugs as a way to numb the pain.
While wanting to feel, and feeling, strong and in control are not inherently negative things, some research suggests that a reliance on these traditional ideals as what it means to be “a man” may negatively impact men’s mental health. The research on this suggests that behaving in a way that conforms to these expectations, specifically expectations of self-reliance, and power over others is associated with increased distress and poorer mental health. Some research also suggests that men who feel as though they are unable speak openly about emotions may be less able to recognize symptoms of mental health problems in themselves, and less likely to reach out for support.
There is work for us to do as a society regarding the stigma of asking for help. “While we have done a much better job of reducing stigma and expanding opportunities for support, men still may be experiencing shame and guilt that could lead to them being less willing to ask for help.”
We can all foster more transparency around mental health and substance abuse issues. No one is immune to stress. Talking with others about how it is affecting you can foster empathy, camaraderie, and support — all of which fight against the feelings of isolation on which addiction and mental health issues can thrive.
We need people to realize that these are medical problems, that there are good treatments available, and that there is hope involved.
When is it time to ask for help?
If you’re worried that someone you care about may be struggling, or you think that you yourself need help, look for these signs that indicate a need for outside assistance:
change in mood
difference in work performance
sadness, hopelessness, or anhedonia (a loss of pleasure and pulling away from things that used to provide enjoyment)
physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues
If your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse, or you’re worried about someone you know – help is available. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a loved one, It is recommended you remind them that asking for help can be a sign of strength rather than weakness, and that in 2020, we have a lot of resources available.
Remember, you’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery. To treat this problem, we must get the message across that it’s OK to ask for help, whether for yourself, your loved ones, or anyone you think may need it.
And for those who have overcome mental health obstacles in their own lives, don’t be afraid to share your own stories. Sometimes reducing stigma means being willing to talk about the times we’ve needed to ask for help ourselves.
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