As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.
This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.
Why Men Don’t Seek Help
Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:
- Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
- Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
- Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.
This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness
Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.
This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.
As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.
Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.
He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.
Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.
What can we do for the men in our lives?
- Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
- Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
- Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.
Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
If you are more comfortable seeking help online, this BetterHelp link will be helpful for Michigan residents, but the entire site is full of good information.