Openly discussing mental illness can be a tough battle for anyone -- but for men, the cultural baggage of traditional masculinity may make it particularly challenging.
There's an obvious stigma when it comes to men and mental health. Research suggests many men find it difficult to disclose mental illness symptoms and a recent analysis found that men are more likely not to speak up if they're having thoughts of suicide. In a society where "being a man" is conflated with being tough, it's hard for men to come forward and reveal they have a mental health condition.
However, confidential conversation is better than no conversation when it comes to mental health. Recently, Ask Men anonymously surveyed male readers on what they wanted everyone to know about dealing with mental health issues. Check out some of their responses below, then share what you want people to understand about anxiety and depression in the comments.
1. It's a health issue.
"It's a medical problem."
2. It's important to open up about anxiety.
"It's OK to have those feelings and wanting to talk about it is natural and healthy."
3. Men with anxiety are seen as "weak" -- and that's a problem.
"We, men, don't share any problems that we face because we think it makes us vulnerable and weak. Some have been taught to show that we are tough since childhood."
4. Lifestyle changes can help.
"Get out of it as soon as possible. Change your habits ... go on a vacation, movies, blind dates. Make new friends. Be positive."
5. Insensitive comments can sometimes stand in the way of support.
"Pretending to sympathize and saying things like 'toughen up,' 'it'll get better,' 'grow up, you are acting so immature,' 'grow a pair' are all not as helpful as [people] like to think it is. Perhaps they should consider observing people a little more before commenting like that."
6. If you want to know more about what they're dealing with, ask thoughtful questions.
"[A]sk questions that are not judgmental in nature. Rather than asking 'how did you screw this up?' consider how could this have gone better ... no need to repeatedly bring up past failures."
7. Mental health issues can be all-consuming.
"It always hurts 24/7 when you are experiencing anxiety and depression."
8. Anxiety and depression don't discriminate.
"It's very real. It can happen to anyone, any age and any gender. There is no switch to turn it off. There is help you can give and receive."
9. The conditions can cause poor thoughts.
"It's a vicious cycle. When you're suffering from it, one bad thought, event or interaction can be enough to send you into destructive thinking patterns."
10. Treatment can make anxiety and depression manageable.
"These are natural human conditions, but it's better looking for professional help in case you can't control them."
11. Mental illness is not just "all in your head."
"[I]t's not something for weak people, you can't just 'cheer up!' and it's okay and normal to talk about."
12. It's important to identify -- and speak out -- about the symptoms.
"How you deal with it is what matters. Usually the ones who undergo stress but don't show it in public suffer the most. One should definitely see a [doctor if they] have trouble with sleep, lack in focus, increased/decreased appetite as these are the initial signs."
13. Anxiety and depression should never make you feel ashamed.
"Depression and anxiety put you in a position where you have no control and feel very open, helpless and vulnerable. As [men], we are constantly being told we have to be strong and in control when we can barely get out of bed in the morning and every decision takes all the focus and energy we have. It can add to the downward spiral. Learn to ask for help and have someone to lean on, it will make your journey out of that black place a little easier."
The survey was conducted on AskMen.com from August 20-29, 2015 and there were 73 total respondents. Each response was confidential.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website getconnected.org.uk
- Young Minds offers information to young people about mental health and emotional wellbeing
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pmand 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
- HeadMeds - a straight-talking website on mental health medication