Men's Mental Health: Helping Your Loved Ones Break the Stigma

Let's explore 3 practical ways to empower and support your loved ones in overcoming the stigma associated with men's mental health.

Victoria Hicks
Created by Victoria Hicks
On Nov 27, 2023
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When you compare the years 2002 and 2021 - more men have started going to some sort of mental health counseling or treatment believe it or not! The number has increased by 4% according to Statista. They credit the increase to decreasing the sigma around seeking help. Let's help more individuals feel comfortable to ask for help when they're hurting by looking deeper into this stigma.

"I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forget that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. I’m scared, I’m sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down, and again, I’m sorry. It’s time I fix me. I’m nervous, but ima get through this." - Kid Cudi, 2016 - Musician and Actor letting the public know he decided to go to rehab

You may hear this often, but it's true: Breaking the negative stigma surrounding men's mental health is crucial. It's all about creating a supportive and understanding environment, one where men feel comfortable asking for help and comfortable returning to friends and family once they emerge from seeking that help. I believe we all know a figure in our life who may identify as a male or non-binary who hasn't been to the doctor in quite some time or struggles with asking for help with the simplest tasks.

When you see someone struggling, whether you're a partner, friend, family member, or co-worker: it's hard to remember that you alone can't fix things for that person. But you can be a support, offer encouragement, and create a safe space. Let's take a step outside of November and promote health mental health for those men and non-binary individuals in your life every month. Here are 3 easy ways for you to help and toss the negative stigma of men's mental health in the trash.

1. Encourage Open Communication

The definition of "open communication" is essentially honesty and transparency - the willingness to share thoughts freely. However, this also means the willingness to participate in active listening. Never go into these conversations displaying that you know more about what the person is experiencing. You can relate but don't diminish their feelings or emotions. Be very careful to not speak over them or cut them off - this generally can make anyone feel unseen, but can really make someone who is struggling with their mental health not share with you.

Also, be patient with the person, give them the room and respect to tell you what they're comfortable telling you. If an idea you suggest is rejected, remember you're there to encourage, but also listen. Be sure to lead by example, and share your own experiences with mental health. This can help melt away the idea that getting help is a weakness. Fostering this type of environment lets others know that "hey, it's okay to be and express vulnerability"

2. Educate Yourself & Raise Awareness

Maybe you're helping create the stigma around therapists or counselors or prescribed medication. Maybe you're the individual who doesn't want to seek help because someone said it'd make you "crazy" or "weak-minded". Unsure? Dive into some research and learn about these things you may not be entirely educated on. Research the importance of getting help or talk to professionals and friends who have found effective ways to navigate their mental health. You'd be surprised to find just how many healthy methods are out there. Sometimes it's as simple as seeking a therapist.

"But I've never found one that works for me, so it doesn't work."

While it may be hard to find a therapist - think of it the same way you'd try on shoes. At the shoe store, you continue to try on shoes until they're comfortable and then you check out and go home. Sometimes it's as simple as encouraging those around you to not give up until they find the comfortable fit they're looking for. The same can be said for medicines that may help - sometimes it takes people quite some time to find the right kind or proper dose. But we'll leave that up to your local psychiatrist and physician to determine what's best for you.

Maybe you're more of a numbers person - look into some statistics or common hurdles men have to jump over daily. With all of this information, don't keep it to yourself: share it with others whether it's via social media, the workplace, or local events. You can even share your findings with a partner, maybe you've finally found the best way to express what you're going through. Or maybe you've found the right words to say to them when they're hurting.

The takeaway is to do your research and raise awareness. Find out what's best for you even when people give you suggestions. Also, through your research, you can better understand things you may not have originally.

3. Rock the Stereotype Boat

Where does this idea of weakness come from when it comes to seeking health? Sometimes it stems from embarrassment. The society we live in, though there are spaces where this idea is challenged fortunately, has conditioned some people to believe that if you identify as male you should be "strong-minded", show no emotion, and not let anything bother you. You have to be unapologetically masculine. So when a male, who follows that notion or grew up with it needs help - they're embarrassed. Some may even think they shouldn't have to ask, it'd make them a burden. Which is a terrible standard to set for young individuals across all spectrums and backgrounds. We want to rock that boat and challenge that stereotype.

You don't have to be stoic and hurt emotionally, or tough and depressed - strength really lies in the bravery of asking for help. It's courageous, it's bold - it shows that you're vulnerable and you shouldn't have to apologize for that. Emotional resilience and seeking support are the new "strong". It's time we took the definition of masculinity and reshaped it. Make it more inclusive so it acknowledges all of the complexity of human emotions.

Whether you're educating yourself right now to break those stigmas or looking for resources to help someone you love - this is a good place to start. Breaking stigma is an ongoing process that really demands all hands on deck. It's a collaborative effort from everyone from all walks of life, identities, and backgrounds. No action is too small to help! Next time someone comes up to you and they're struggling, be sure to actively listen and create a safe space of vulnerability for them. Please remember to also take care and look after yourself through it all as well.

Which way are you trying to break the stigma that comes with asking for mental health help?

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