In 30 seconds
Male mental health stigma creates a mindset that prevents men from talking about our feelings. It tells us that admitting we are unhappy or unwell is a weakness. It tells us we can’t seek help for our personal struggles. But it’s time all of this changed. Talking about our mental health can help us flourish – and it can save lives.
“Manning Up” Only Takes You So Far
Men are much less likely than women to talk about their emotions. One survey found that 28% of men did not seek treatment for the most recent mental health problem they experienced (compared to 19% of women). A further 35% either waited for over two years before telling anyone or they didn’t tell anyone at all.
To some people, this might seem like a normal way of life, or just the natural difference between genders. But in reality male reluctance to be open about our feelings can do real harm. In fact, studies show that men are less likely to be satisfied in life, more inclined to substance abuse, and more likely to commit suicide.
Here, we’re talking about male mental health stigma, why it’s such a problem, and how men can overcome it.
Why Mental Health Stigma Matters So Much in Men
Male mental health stigma refers to the way that men’s honesty about their mental health can trigger social disapproval, discrimination, and feelings of shame. The result is that men can find it much more difficult to talk about their psychological health than people of other genders.
It’s a complex topic. Society tells men to be macho (read: strong, manly, invulnerable), while emotions and weakness remain conventionally “feminine” traits. Even though the majority of people acknowledge these gender roles are outdated, they still affect the way we behave.
That means mental health stigma is not just an abstract thing. Instead, it has real, concrete impacts:
- 75% of suicides are male, making suicide rates three times higher in men than women. Suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50.
- Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women, with those age 45-59 reporting the lowest
- Men are 3 times more likely to be alcohol dependent than women
- Men are nearly twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse than women
- Men are less likely to receive treatment for mental health conditions than women, with 9% of men and 15% of women receiving treatment
Male mental health stigma means that men are less likely to share or seek help for their mental illnesses. But why is this?
Why Is It Harder for Men to Talk About Mental Health?
There are a number of reasons that are backed up by research:
- Gender roles. Just as women can be oppressed by roles that society places upon them, men can be affected too, although in different ways. Part of this is that men are not encouraged to talk about their feelings – and this can lead to the destructive impacts we mentioned above.
- Toxic masculinity. Men who work in male-dominated jobs tend to experience worse mental health – and a greater likelihood of suicide – than those in other roles, according to research. This suggests there is something about masculine culture that affects us more strongly.
- Health literacy. Men tend to be less health literate than other genders, meaning they may be less able to recognise the symptoms of poor mental health, again according to research.
- Reluctance to get treated. 75% of men put off going to the doctor when showing signs of illness, with 38% saying that it is not important. While this is true of physical health, it is likely true for men’s mental health problems too.
Despite this, it’s important that you do seek help when you need it. Here are some of the key symptoms of low mental health to look out for.
Mental Health Challenges: The Symptoms Men Should Be Aware Of
There is some preliminary evidence that the symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders can be experienced differently by men and women. These are the key symptoms to be aware of:
- Persistent changes to your mood. Maybe you feel anxious, low, tired, worried, or distracted. You don’t need to ignore these feelings. Talk to a healthcare provider, a friend, or a family member you trust.
- Changes to your sleep. If you are waking up during the night or struggling to get to sleep more than usual, it might be due to your mental wellbeing.
- Low performance at work or school. Feelings of low self-esteem or detachment can affect your ability to work.
- Physical symptoms. Sometimes unexplained physical symptoms – such as muscle aches, digestion problems, headaches, or fatigue – can be caused by mental health concerns.
- Thoughts of self-harm. If you are thinking of self-harming or committing suicide, please reach out to a loved one or a health professional. You are not alone – and they can help.
Improving Your Mental Health: Some Strategies
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you don’t have to just live with it. There are some simple strategies that you can implement to make yourself feel better.
- Exercise. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. It releases dopamine, gets you outside, and improves your physical wellbeing. All of these things have been shown to boost your mental health.
- Sleep. Doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Why? Because it is known to have a critical impact on your mental wellbeing.
Find out more here: How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- Talk to someone. It is incredible what a difference a conversation can make. It doesn’t need to be with someone trained to give professional help. Just talking to a friend, family member, or support group can help.
Find some options for mental health help here: How to Find Mental Health Help
Male mental health stigma can cost lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are options out there to help you feel better.
Talk to someone – whether a health professional, a doctor, or just someone you trust. You are not alone.
What are Some Causes of Male Mental Health Stigma?
It is thought that male mental health stigma is largely caused by conventional gender roles. Men are brought up to believe that it is not “manly” to talk about their feelings, for example, or that it is weak to feel vulnerable.
Similarly, men typically do not seek medical advice as often as other genders – and they are less likely to recognise their symptoms.