Breaking Down Barriers: Understanding What Triggers Men to Seek Therapy
One of the most common phrases young boys hear growing up is ‘Be a man.’ At the time, they don’t connect to the meaning of the statement, yet act subconsciously in the moment. However, going deeper into what ‘being a man’ means can often exemplify a bigger issue. Due to societal expectations, men are often expected to minimize their feelings in order to portray a strong persona to the world. So when depression or anxiety evolves, coping and allowing themselves to reach out for help can be challenging due to their ingrained belief of being told to hide behind masculinity. This continued build-up of hidden emotions leads to men experiencing strong forms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and, worst of all, suicide. Men make up roughly 50% of the population, yet they result in 80% of suicides, which is a staggering statistic. There is no time like the present to offer support to the men around us and do what we can to ensure they feel supported and secure because you never know what can happen behind closed doors.
Accepting and Prioritizing Men’s Mental Health: It is important to be cognizant of and to better understand men's struggles with expressing their emotions, especially during Men’s Health Awareness Month. Women and men are known to have different forms of expression; some be more emotional than others, whereas women tend to be more open and upfront compared to men, who may be closed off or hostile when confronted. Women are twice as likely to seek professional help as men, which also explains why the eighth leading cause of death in men is suicide. This statistic is why it's more important than ever to consider all mental health and emotional factors men face.
The Importance of Noticing Signs: When it comes to helping the men around us get help, it is vital that the people around them pay attention to any potentially alarming signals, such as mood swings, aggression, suicidal remarks, or reliance on substances. These symptoms can come from an array of unexpected situations that trigger someone to act out of their normal character. As we continue through life's journey, it's essential to look out for those around us who may be going through one of these similar situations.
- Physical Pain
- Built-Up Emotional Turmoil
- Grief/Loss of a Loved-One
- Social Isolation
- Alcoholism/Substance Abuse
- Significant/Unexpected Life Changes
- Early-Life Trauma Resurfacing
- Job Insecurity
- Irrational Decisions
Reasons Why Men Don’t Seek Therapy
When it comes to getting professional help, men are often polarized by the thought of being forced to talk openly about their struggles. This leads to people coming up with a number of excuses or alternatives to seeking therapy that will spare them the embarrassment or discomfort of having to let their guard down to a complete stranger. There are plenty of causes for men refusing to seek professional help, and it’s important to know and understand these reasons to help and connect with the men in our lives that could be struggling. We all express ourselves in different ways, so understanding why men have difficulty opening up and connecting is vital to being a strong companion, friend, family member, and associate.
- Strict Gender Roles: As men and women grow up, they are met with societal expectations on how they should behave, present themselves, and of course, deal with emotions. Men are often deemed as strong and tenacious fighters who don’t need to express their inner emotions. Being raised their entire lives to hold back emotions and keep pressing forward regardless of the circumstances genuinely impacts the emotional availability they experience moving forward.
- The Fear of Ridicule & Judgement: Due to such structured and defined gender roles, men often go to any means necessary to protect their manhood, which in most cases results in maintaining their composure and hiding their emotions. In fact, 47% of Americans see therapy as a sign of ‘weakness.’ Frequently, this stigma leads to the dangerous cycle of people turning to other outlets more accessible to them, such as drugs and alcohol, as a release due to feeling discomfort expressing themselves openly.
- Suppression-Ignoring Issues: Plenty of stressors affect our mental well-being, so it is important to seek professional help when life gets too stressful or overwhelming. Oftentimes, when men experience issues, they tend to hide behind their feelings and go to their “man cave,” where depression can arise without confronting any part of such issue, pretending that there isn’t a problem to begin with and no need for concern. The feeling of no one knowing their struggles is better than actually facing them.
- Inability to Cover Costs: Due to the associated medical expenses, people are often closed off from seeking help and therapy. So when there is an option to save money and not spend on seeking professional help, they may put their well-being aside in order to make ends meet. However, for affordability, there are plenty of alternatives to potentially expensive therapy, such as group therapy, community health centers, and non-profits.
- Using Dangerous Forms of ‘Relief’: As mentioned, when men are often feeling depressed or overwhelmed, they often turn their anger towards alcohol or substance abuse for an escape from reality and the pain they experience. This reliance on mind-altering substances devastates suicide rates because the victim is not fully conscious of their decision-making capabilities. It is said that one-third of all suicides committed are due to alcohol consumption, and 22% of them involve opioid drugs and prescriptions such as heroin or painkillers.
- Strictly Talking to Family/Friends: Although having a support system when they are struggling is extremely important, their judgment can sometimes be misguided due to potential biases. If the mental health problems involve a family member per se, their opinion and choices may not be what will truly benefit the person seeking treatment. The great thing about getting professional help is that the advice they receive is completely unbiased and genuine.
- Assuming Therapy Won’t Work: When it comes to assumptions about therapy and mental health stigma, people can have all sorts of opinions, such as it not leading to any resolution. Yet they may overlook the value of how important the process of character development, forming better habits, changing thought patterns, and honest feedback could go a long way in improving one's mental health. Negative thinking has a massive impact on how we approach every situation because if you assume something is going to be a bad experience, it will usually end up being that way.
The Benefits of Seeking Professional Help
The journey of taking the step of recognizing issues, where help is needed, and taking the initiative to seek professional mental health care can often be a big step. It takes a lot of courage and inner strength for men to get over that hesitancy of getting help, so when they start seeing positive effects, it becomes more significant. There are many advantages to seeking therapy, and it’s essential for all men to know these benefits when they are having doubts.
- Releasing Built-Up Emotion: A common problem with men refusing to acknowledge their mental health is that it often continues to build up until it becomes unmanageable. Taking the step to seek a professional allows the client to talk about their feelings without biases. The continual release of expression alleviates aggression and stress and has a massive impact on the improvement of their mental state long term, with clarity for wiser decision-making moving forward.
- Finding New Ways to Handle Situations: Before getting help from a professional, men will often use outlets like drugs, alcohol, or violence in order to diminish or hide their feelings. Going to therapy will help clients find new ways to combat these emotions when they occur, such as writing a journal, exercising, using breathing techniques, or talking to a professional. All of these alternatives can help the client overcome their struggles and make real, positive changes for themselves.
- Meeting People with Common Experiences: Types of professional help such as group therapy can help people build connections with people that are going through the same thing. Finding common ground helps lessen feelings of isolation and discomfort as they start to realize more people struggle with the same thing than they initially realized.
- Improvements in Physical & Sexual Performance: When men are stressed out or feeling down, it often takes a toll on how they perform in physical activities and sexual performance. Stress has a massive impact on how our body and mind work together, so alleviating that anxiety and getting over that emotional hump will help their body and mind work stronger together.
- Having Someone in Case of Emergencies: In extreme cases of facing a life-threatening issue related to substance abuse and having suicidal tendencies, it is important to seek therapy, a rehabilitation center, a detox facility, or a crisis management professional. Accidents happen, and people end up making bad decisions, so having a therapist to be vulnerable with can help minimize detrimental occurrences. Having someone they feel comfortable sharing with openly or go to in emergency cases provides a sense of comfort with not feeling alone in the struggle.
- Can Now Assist Others to Find Help: Once someone has gotten treatment and successfully turned themselves around to a positive direction to healthy living, they will have clarity that therapy is not against them but for them. If any men you know struggle with something, offering them resources and making them feel there is hope can help tremendously in their journey toward recovery. Being a trusted friend to share encouragement of seeking professional help would massively impact their life, give them comfort, and ultimately save their life.
- Change How Men Feel About Therapy: Since societal expectations are viewed so highly in today's age, where others’ opinions about therapy and the stigma men give it may only change when they connect to someone they trust. As one gets farther along in their journey of therapy, men tend to realize that not only is it for their benefit, but it is not to be something ashamed of. This can lead men to spread the word about their experience and the benefits of therapy and ultimately lessen the stigma for men to prioritize their mental health and not hide behind their emotions.
Ways for Peers to Help Men Overcome Their Depression
There are many factors that go along with overcoming a depressive state of mind than solely seeking therapy. A key to long-term benefits is to have a positive support system for guidance as an outlet for one to talk to when struggles arise, helping prevent relapse. There are many ways where we can extend support to men struggling, and below are some examples:
- Offer Unwavering Support:Depression is a grueling challenge to endure alone, so it is extremely important to provide support and offer resources to those around us who are struggling. Letting them know they can always reach out without fear of judgment can create an impactful connection. No matter what they are going through, offering unwavering support and sharing that you are there for them will help men feel more comfortable to open up.
- Promote Healthy Activities and Habits: Often, when dealing with depression or substance abuse, people tend to lose track of practicing prior healthy habits, such as exercising, personal hygiene, and balancing enjoyable activities. Encouraging them to exercise, journal, or spend time in nature could go a long way. Having peers cheer them up and motivate them to accomplish their goals will help them boost their mood and push them to get back up on their feet and persevere.
- Advise Therapy/Seeking Professional Help:Oftentimes, men are concerned with how their peers perceive them on seeking professional help, so simply suggesting therapy and treatment as a viable option to help them be more comfortable, to be willing to take the step to seek help. Seeing a therapist can alleviate emotional build-up to release in a safe, supportive, and professional environment.
- Respect That It May Take Time: Some men are more emotionally available than others, so it is important to let those who are struggling with anxiety and depression to go at their own pace. No one should be pressured to move on from their struggles or get over something until they feel vindicated and ready to move forward. Especially when it comes to early life trauma, allowing them to go at their own pace through therapy and work through it can have great results for true relief.
- Be There Through Thick and Thin: Depression can get low, especially when it involves polarizing or potentially dangerous circumstances such as drug abuse, alcoholism, anger issues, and/or suicidal thoughts or attempts. It is extremely important to be readily available to friends, family, and trusted community members in life-threatening issues, such as questioning livelihood, etc. Simply letting them know that they are people who genuinely care about their well-being despite their struggles can have a massive impact on their decisions and life.
The struggles of depression and anxiety can be gruesome, take a massive toll on a person’s mental health, and often result in devastating fatalities. That is why, especially during Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we encourage and uplift all men in our lives who are struggling with mental health to reach out for help when needed. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to seek or advise professional care. The biggest sign of strength is making the decision to hold themselves accountable and actively seek out an avenue of hope. There is always someone to talk to, such as professionals whose main purpose and role is to help those who struggle, no matter how alone or isolated they feel.
Opus EHR prioritizes mental health awareness in all that we do. For therapists and practitioners, we strive to provide the best software solutions to support their practice operations through processes to help treatment centers have quicker and smoother accessibility for care. We at Opus EHR offer therapists and clinicians the most efficient and time-saving features to practice their expertise, for them to be fully equipped and offer their full attention to clients’ critical mental health needs. Opus EHR takes the worry and stresses of technology management out of the providers’ hands, giving them more time to focus on what truly matters, helping their clients through their recovery journey.
If you feel like Opus EHR can benefit your practice, please feel free to schedule a consultation to learn more about how Opus can benefit your practice and boost your operations by meeting with our team: https://www.opusehr.com/meet-with-opus-ehr-team
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text "HELLO" to 741741
Mental Health America: www.mentalhealthamerica.net
National Alliance on Mental Illness: www.nami.org