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“I don’t want to talk about it” – An Epidemic in Men’s Mental Health

“I just need to get over it and not let it bother me” or “I don’t think talking about this will help” are responses I often hear in my clinical work. Such reactions are often from men who have, or are currently experiencing emotional and psychological hardships. Challenges can range from concerns such as work-related stress, relational difficulties, trauma, anxiety, and depression. Another source of mental health stress for men (often less noticeable) is trying to maintain societal expectations and stereotypes of what it means to be masculine. Such harmful stereotypes often depict men as never being vulnerable, not acting or behaving in emotional ways, and solving their problems independently. This perspective can often begin in childhood when children are told “boys don’t cry,” and the ongoing societal pressure for men to remain ‘strong’ and not admit they are struggling.

Due to such beliefs and ideas, men are much less likely to seek support or treatment. This reasoning may help explain why men have lower rates of diagnosed depression; however, suicide rates are three to four times higher in men compared to women. Knowing this, how do we help men reach out for support?

Firstly, we need to be aware of the signs of mental health difficulties. Men and women may experience the same mental health conditions at various times, although men might show different signs and symptoms. Rather than seeking treatment for a specific condition such as depression, men are more likely to engage in maladaptive coping behaviours including turning to alcohol or drug use. Depression in men can also be characterized through anger and irritability in addition to expressions of sadness. Knowing how men might show signs of mental illness and the associated risk factors is required to seek or encourage support.

Secondly, it is crucial to be aware of the harmful stereotypes associated with the idea of masculinity, which serves as a barrier for men in seeking help. As human beings of all genders, we experience emotions, which at times might be complex and challenging to organize and make sense of on our own. Expressing emotion or vulnerability does not equate to weakness. As humans, we are a social species, and we thrive collectively. Discussing our difficulties with others and having a support system help to provide a sense of relief and understanding.

Lastly, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. If you are struggling emotionally yourself or are concerned about someone, know that you are not alone in experiencing such difficulties, and you do not bear the load in silence. Whether its offering support to someone by listening, talking to a family member or friend, or reaching out to a therapist who you can build a non-judgemental and trustworthy relationship with, knowing you are not alone is a vital step in finding support.

Edgar Prudco is a therapist at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (Toronto) and works under the supervision of Meg Aston-Lebold. Edgar is completing his Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at the Adler Graduate Professional School. He supports individual adults and couples to deal with difficulties related to emotion (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger), the effects of trauma, loss & grief, conflict resolution, and relationship functioning.