Asking for mental health help should be simple but for many men, it just isn’t. The acceptance that counselling, therapy or talking therapy really does work is often lost by the stigma that this is something men just don’t do.
Women in general share problems in their lives with their partner, family and close friends and they also access mental health services more frequently than men. This healthy way of reaching out and accepting support means they have less worries, anxiety and depression.
Why not for men too? Some men have the belief that they should be strong and not show weakness – certainly they shouldn’t talk about their problems because this would show weakness and then somehow, this would make them less of a man.
Where did this come from? Is it the conditioning of childhood – boys in blue playing with trucks and girls in pink playing with dolls? Girls can cry – but boys can’t…..These ideas from the 80’s are certainly changing and today we understand that roles aren’t gender defined. Boys play with dolls, girls with trucks and it’s ok for anyone to cry.
However, men today can still be influenced by the traditional stereotypes often seen on social media. This in turn is having a negative influence on men seeking help. Feelings of embarrassment and even shame can prevent some men from even thinking about asking for help. They fear they will be judged harshly and feel it shows their weakness and threatens their masculinity. With these thoughts in their minds, they would rather push the feelings away than approach a counsellor. Hiding such thoughts and feelings can lead to anxiety and depression.
What do we need to do? Society is changing but there is still a long way to go. We need to continue to talk about mental health for all, but especially focussing on men’s mental health. By doing this we are breaking down the stigma, embarrassment and shame and helping men feel comfortable about asking for help. It’s good to talk and good for men to talk.