For the entire month of June, awareness about men’s health and the unique issues they experience is recognized nationally. The goal is to encourage males and their families to focus on their health and practice healthy living. This awareness is important because statistics show that men die about five years earlier than women, and at a higher rate, from heath disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries.
Of course, men and women have some biological differenceus that can influence the prevalence of mental health conditions and addiction. On top of the biological differences, sociocultural factors, like ideals of what it means to be a man, also play a role in shaping how men might respond to and manage their condition. Whether man or woman, though, not properly addressing a mental health condition can increase the risk of substance abuse and vice versa.
Men & Mental Health
Men and women alike experience mental illness, however, statistics show that they are less prevalent in men. At the same time, men with a known condition are less likely to even receive treatment. Men are also four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Symptoms of mental illness may manifest differently. For example, with depression, some men can appear angry, aggressive, and irritated, whereas women can appear sad, making it hard for family and friends to identify the issue. Emotional symptoms may be harder for some men to express, so they are more likely to report to the doctor about associated physical symptoms like aches, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems. Sadly, mental illness is becoming known as the “silent killer” of men.
What About Addiction?
Men are typically two to three times more likely than women to misuse drugs, and the use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol is higher for men than women across age groups. Statistics also show more men die due to alcohol-related causes when compared to women. According to the Addiction Center, peer pressure more frequently influences men in substance abuse. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can also be more intense in men. Moreover, even though men develop a dependence on opioids more slowly, they are more likely to misuse this class of addictive drugs and fatally overdose as a result of abuse.
All of these statistics and information are concerning because they suggest that men are indeed suffering from mental illness and addiction but are less likely to seek help. This can result in unhealthy and dangerous outcomes for their body and life.
Dissolving the Stigma
Why is it that so many men are clearly suffering but often don’t receive help? One answer is stigma, which includes social, professional, self, and cultural stigma.
Social stigma involves the negative attitudes aimed at a person or group experiencing mental illness and addiction. These attitudes stem from the fictitious idea that men who seek help have a weak character. This can be seen as justification for discrimination, avoidance, and rejection of the suffering person. Even in the professional world, health professionals such as therapists may reinforce the stigma unintentionally.
Self-stigma is what happens when social stigma is internalized. This causes the person to become embarrassed or shameful about their condition, further isolating them. Lastly, cultural stigma encompasses the ways that different cultures may interpret or feel about mental illness and addiction. Cultural beliefs, values, and norms can be particularly important, as culture helps shape a person’s identity and sense of belonging. It can the organizing component of one’s life and daily activities. To be rejected by that culture can be devastating.
In the U.S., men face the stigma of masculine social norms. Traditional masculinity manifests as an expression of power, dominance, and privilege over women and some other men. This can restrict a male from expressing themselves genuinely in fear of seeming cowardly or weak. For example, it is not uncommon for boys to be encouraged to play rough or not cry. Adherence to such norms can worsen depression and anxiety, lead to abuse of substances and greater health risks, promote issues with dating and intimacy, increase psychological distress, and foster discouragement in seeking help.
Considering this context, it makes sense that some men resist getting help for mental health or addiction. The heavy weight of stigma around what it means to be a true man can be too much to bear. Attacks on one’s manhood can feel like a direct attack on one’s cherished identity. Perhaps, manhood could be redefined to encompass a wider range of realistic and completely natural expectations and characteristics, so that men and boys will feel more comfortable in expressing how they feel. It could save lives.
June is all about men’s health and focusing on living our most healthy and best lives. This also means addressing the shocking differences between men and women when it comes to prevalence rates of mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse. Men are at a greater risk than women in various situations, like death by suicide and drug overdose. Biological factors are central to understanding men’s particular risks, but so are sociocultural factors like stigma. Negative attitudes aimed at a person or group experiencing mental illness and/or addiction can push a person further away from getting help and even worsen their health. As is evident from the suicide statistics, this can become a fatal situation and fast. Ideals of what encompasses a true man can become toxic and prevent a person from getting the help they not only deserve but desperately need. It’s okay to not be okay. In Laguna Beach, California, we offer a special Men’s Rehab Program, created with men’s unique concerns in mind. We also treat co-occurring mental health disorders. Call us today to finally get the help you deserve at (877) 279-1777.