Men’s Health Week: Breaking Free of the Mental Health Stigma

In recognition of Men’s Health Week we explore the stereotypes about men and mental health. The term ‘health’ extends beyond a person’s physical state. Someone can appear to be healthy on the outside and even can check-out perfectly fine on the inside, but health is also the conscious and unconscious part of your mind. Everyone at some point comes face-to-face with a health challenge including mental health. No matter if you are male or female, mental health does not discriminate.

 The Pressure to be “Manly”

For men, culture and stereotypes tell you to be masculine. There is a certain expectation that comes with mental health disorders. They are viewed as being ‘weak’. In all reality, many people face them, and it takes a strong individual to receive help for them.

 In order to help break the stigma surrounding men’s mental health, there are areas that need to be understood. If you didn’t know already, men and women are very different. We don’t look the same, we have biological differences and we definitely don’t think the same way. The majority of women deal with things by internalizing them. Men tend to externalize emotions. When men externalize emotions, it can lead to “aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behaviors,” according to the American Psychological Association.The way men cope with mental illnesses makes them less likely to reach out for help and more likely to take their own action. According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are more likely to succeed in suicide, and sadly this usually occurs without any signs of mental illnesses or attempts to get help. This coping method is created in part by the stigma our society creates about men and their role. Our society’s definition of a man adds an enormous amount of pressure and confusion to a majority of males.

 Joe Wilner, licensed therapist and life coach, shares his personal struggle and experiences with the stigma. In a recent interview with Therapy Threads, Joe explains, “We get this message, the message that I got when I was growing up, that you are supposed to be strong, and have it all together. You are supposed to be generativity and achieve things and have wealth. Realizing that I am more than just a person who is trying to be productive, successful and achieve a lot, but realizing mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually that all those areas we need to find nourishment in our life.”

 Joe added, “It takes the ability to step away from the busyness of things and actually find some stillness and some solitude and silence and give ourselves the opportunity to take care of ourselves. Because in doing that, we are actually going to be more productive as men. We are actually going to be able to be there as a supportive person for our family and friends. We are going to have more energy, more zest and engage in life more effectively,” he said.


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