June is Men’s Health Month. Physical health is important, but I want to talk about a far less commonly discussed health issue, men’s mental health. Depression affects more than 16 million people in this country and there are treatments that can help. For anyone living with mental health problems, talking about it with anyone may seem scary and difficult, even intimidating. For men in particular, who’ve been told all their lives to “man up” and “be strong,” accessing mental health resources can seem to go against expectations.
Why is it so difficult for men to consider their mental health and seek help?
Society tells men that it is simply not acceptable to have too many feelings.
Men are taught from an early age to be tough, not to cry, and to “just deal with it.” We train soldiers to be tough 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. Many men do not want to ask for help because they are afraid of looking weak or stupid or being teased by their friends and family. Men need to know that their internal struggles are just as valid as any other struggle, and these do not make them less of a man.
It can be very difficult to admit you are struggling, regardless of gender, but even more so as a man. Logically, we 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 can’t 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’re really doing. Essentially, the messages men receive as children and up through adulthood discourage them from ever letting anyone know they need help. Thankfully, this is starting to change.
Why is it so important for men to address mental health issues?
Considering that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental health condition in any given year, it is crucial that these issues get normalized — and that’s exactly why Phelps made it a point to share his experience with others.
“You know, for me, I basically carried just about every negative emotion you can possibly carry along for 15-20 years and I never talked about it. And I don’t know why that one day I decided to just open up. But since that day, it’s just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy life and it’s something I’m very thankful for.” Michael Phelps, professional athlete
There is hope!
The fact that celebrities seem to be more and more comfortable talking about their mental health is also encouraging, sometimes even putting a humorous spin on what living with a mental illness is like. As more men speak out about their struggles and experience with mental health difficulties, other men can see that the struggle is real, and you are not alone.
We can continue to spread awareness and normalize the fact that it can be difficult to manage stress and everyday demands. Most importantly, we need to continue to get out the message of hope. There are effective psychotherapy treatments and medications that can help with managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. So, please seek help and know that you are not alone. It takes courage to ask for help and you are the most courageous person in the room.
Peace and grace to you,
Janelle Carbone-Rodriguez, LCSW
If you, or any man in your life, are struggling to find your best mental health, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:
Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing
Appointment & Information number: 1-866-280-WELL (9355)
All referrals and appointments are strictly confidential.