“I’ve learned to deal with it. I don’t want to be a burden. What if people see me differently? I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to look weak. I don’t have anyone to talk to.” This is what men have to say when it comes to prioritizing their mental health. Studies show that although 1 in 10 men experience anxiety, depression or other mental health challenge, they often struggle in silence. In fact, studies show that 40% of men say they’ve never spoken to someone about their mental health. When we confront these statistics, something becomes clear: men are struggling to prioritize their mental health due to stigma and shame. Men are given a faulty script. Their script says that having struggles, sharing feelings and needing help makes them weak. Meanwhile, our society rewards strength and expects men to shoulder the burdens of life without ever cracking under the weight. Not only is this mindset unsustainable, it’s unhealthy. Now is the time to flip the script on men and mental health.
Flipping the Script on Men and Mental Health
Our Judson Center Behavioral Health staff are experts in mental health treatment. Our professionals work to change the narrative so men, and other individuals, can access the support they need to thrive. Jamila Stevens, Director of Integrated Care at Judson Center, hopes to see more men coming in to receive therapy.
“Even though we are seeing more high-profile men, including men of color, sharing about their own mental health challenges, the trickle down to our communities has been slow. There is still a stigma around men receiving mental health treatment or even opening up to loved ones and friends about their struggles.”
Men Struggle to Share What They Are Going Through
This difficulty in dealing with mental health often begins when men are younger.
Stevens adds, “When we don’t teach them as children that it’s okay to feel and to ask for help, we are shaping a future generation of men who lack the tools to manage their minds and emotions in a healthy way. Men are socialized not to struggle, and if they do, they are squeezed into a mold that tells them never to vocalize it. This often leaves men blindsided by emotions and eventually by their mental health challenges.”
Suicide Rates Among Men
Statistics show that a staggering 78% of deaths by suicide are men. There is no time to waste. “The extra awareness of men’s mental health is positive. But we need everyone to play their part in helping to flip the script and change the way we talk about men’s mental health,” Stevens says. There are small, intentional steps that we can take to flip the script on men and mental health and help the men in our lives start prioritizing their mental health.
1. Practice the Art of Noticing
Every person bears the weight of a struggle and expresses their need for help differently. Men are no different. A man may be depressed but not show it in the way we are conditioned to see it. This is why practicing the art of noticing is key. When we slow down, remove distractions, and pay attention to people we notice things we may not have otherwise. Take the time to listen and learn how to recognize when a man in your life may need help, but doesn’t know how to ask for it. These first simple steps of noticing help pave the way for deeper conversation.
2. Create a Safe Space for Open Dialogue
If we ever want to see a shift in the mental health crisis among men, we must create spaces where they feel safe to share openly about their challenges. For anyone to share honestly about their experiences and struggles, they need to feel safe. Helpful suggestions include:
- Ending masculine stereotypes – Many men think they must be strong and stoic. Create a safe space for open dialogue by rejecting the stereotypes men feel pressured by. Let the men in your life know they can bring their whole selves to your conversation without fear of judgement.
- Ensuring confidentiality – Many men worry that their open dialogue will negatively impact the way their friends, families and coworkers view them. Create a safe space for the men in your life by letting them know that anything shared with you is confidential. The only time you should ever repeat something shared is if it will cause them or someone else harm.
- Embracing active listening – Many men have experienced shame about sharing their struggles with others in the past. Being an empathetic listener can help men feel safe to share. Create a safe space by embracing active listening. These tools will help the men in your life know they are safe and invited to talk with you.
3. Initiate Conversation By Modeling
One way to support a man in your life is to model healthy communication. Stevens says, “Initiate a conversation by sharing. Modeling helps to dismantle the stigma and shame that men often fight to receive the help they need. They thrive on mutual disclosure. Share first and show them that you struggle too, and the openness will most likely be reciprocated.”
This exchange is referred to as “the beautiful mess effect”. We are trained to view vulnerability as a weakness or inadequacy – a mess. But when we open up, the other person tends to see something quite different, and sometimes even something beautiful. Leading with openness and vulnerability lets men know that they are seen, cared for and invited to bring their whole selves into the conversation.
4. Become a Partner in Their Progress
One helpful way to encourage a man in your life to prioritize his mental health is to become a partner in his progress. This commitment looks different in each situation. Sometimes this partnership looks like being on the phone to help make a therapy appointment, attending support group as a guest, or offering encouragement when the progress slow. Sometimes this partnership looks like offering resources and helping them find the help they need. But, as Stevens cautions, “We must learn to carry the burden with others without casting blame on ourselves. Wanting to help is a positive thing. But we must be careful not to make ourselves responsible for the mental health of another person. Someone has to choose to get help.”
50% of Men Who Struggle Will Not Seek Support
In order to see a change, we have to get men in our families and communities connected to the right resources. While men struggle to seek help, especially professional help, Stevens encourages therapy whenever possible. “Talking with a therapist can help shed light on the things you’re experiencing and feeling and provide hope that you can get through tough and challenging times,” she says.
Judson Center is Here to Help Men Prioritize Their Mental Health
Judson Center provides services to support individuals on their mental health journey. Whether someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse or any other mental health crisis, our team of experts is here to help. Our outpatient therapy appointments are available in-person or through telehealth sessions and same-day or next-day appointments are available.
- If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health or suicidal crisis please dial 988 to be connected to the Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Center
- Call Judson Center at 586-573-1810 for mental health services
- Take one of our Free Mental Health Screenings to determine your risk and help find helpful resources and next steps
As we make small and intentional changes in how we treat men and talk about their mental health, we will begin to see the positive ripple effects in our families and communities. Together, we can flip the script on men and mental health and see them living healthy and whole lives!
By Hannah Gregory