Unmasking the Silent Struggle: Shattering Stereotypes and Empowering Men’s Mental Health
For a long time, men have been expected to display resilience and emotional stoicism. These expectations have made it hard for men to talk about their struggles with mental health. In our work, we see this dynamic play out on an individual and family level on a daily basis. We want to talk about why recognizing this dynamic is important, why approaching treatment for men should be tailored, and what we can do to break the stigma that surrounds men seeking help.
Recognize the Stigma
Cultural beliefs lie at the heart of the stigma surrounding men and mental health. Boys are often instilled with the traits of strength, independence, and emotional restraint from a young age. This can make it difficult for men to ask for help out of concern that they will be seen as weak or vulnerable. The result is a painful one: men make up 49% of the population but account for nearly 80% of all suicides.
“Men value the ability to change their environment, create meaningful impact, and either stop their pain or give it a purpose.”
Recognize the Differences
Men also respond better to certain therapeutic interventions and have unique goals when seeking help. When men seek therapy, their primary worries are usually feelings of worthlessness, feeling lost, and being a burden to loved ones; they aren’t always trying to simply feel better or understood. Therapeutic goals must not only improve emotional well-being but also achieve impactful and meaningful results. It’s important to be aware of these differences and choose methods, treatments, and life skills training that will help men reach their specific goals.
Techniques and Strategies
1. Educate and Inform
This one is simple. Misconceptions around men’s mental health must be overcome, and education is a key tool in this effort. Debunk misconceptions and raise awareness around the warning signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, and stress that asking for help is a show of strength, not weakness.
2. Tailor Treatment Approaches
Develop and use therapeutic interventions that are specifically designed to address the unique needs and goals of men. Men value the ability to change their environment, create meaningful impact, and either stop their pain or give it a purpose. Incorporate activities and techniques that align with men’s preferences, such as goal-oriented therapy, solution-focused approaches, and practical skill-building exercises. This tailored approach breaks down obstacles, destigmatizes help-seeking, and equips men to succeed with methods that concentrate on solutions rather than issues.
3. Encourage Full Engagement
By encouraging full engagement in the decision-making process of their treatment plan, we can empower men to take ownership of their mental health journey. This collaborative approach breaks down the barriers of passivity and fosters a sense of agency and self-advocacy. Men become active participants in their well-being, actively shaping their path towards improved mental health and overall fulfillment.
4. Establish Supportive Environments
Building supportive environments specifically designed for men can be essential for men to feel safe and empowered to discuss their mental health. This involves fostering open and non-judgmental conversations and encouraging empathy and understanding among friends, family, and communities. Encourage the involvement of family and loved ones in the treatment process to build a support system that can help men sustain progress in treating their mental health.
5. Help Redefine Masculinity
To break the stigma, redefining masculinity and honoring emotional well-being are required. It is critical to emphasize the significance of men’s emotional intelligence and self-care routines. Journaling, mindfulness, and seeking therapeutic outlets are all activities that can help men prioritize their mental health. Encourage open discussions about emotions and mental health within families, schools, and workplaces. We can disrupt prevailing norms and expectations by promoting a holistic understanding of masculinity that includes emotional health.
By implementing techniques and strategies like these, we can break the stigma surrounding men’s mental health, ensure that treatment approaches are tailored to their unique needs, and create a world where seeking help for mental health is seen as a sign of strength. We have been doing this work with men for 21 years, and there has never been a moment more important for men’s mental health than the one we are living right now. Join us.