A Guide to Mental Health Care for Men
Mental health issues do not discriminate. People of all genders can experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. But they can look different in men.
Gender stereotypes and stigma can also make it more difficult for men and their health professionals to recognize when they might need mental health support.
Here is the truth about everything about men’s mental health, from identifying symptoms to finding the right kind of therapy.
Men can suffer from a wide range of mental health problems, but some are common:
Are men less likely to suffer from mental health problems?
There is a common assumption that women are more likely to have mental health issues than men, especially when it comes to depression. But that doesn’t mean men aren’t affected.
In fact, in 2019 in the United States, men died by suicide at a rate
Experts increasingly recognize the complex factors at play when it comes to differences in the way men and women experience mental health issues.
While biological factors, like hormonal differences, can certainly play a role, they don’t tell the whole story. Internalized gender stereotypes, coping strategies and clinical biases, among others,
Men and women can sometimes experience the same mental health problem in different ways due to a mix of biological and social factors.
Mental health symptoms in men can include:
- anger and aggression
- substance abuse
- difficulty concentrating
- persistent feelings of worry
- engagement in high risk activities
- unusual behavior that affects others or interferes with everyday life
- suicidal thoughts
Some mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, can also have physical symptoms that people might ignore.
- changes in appetite and energy
- new aches and pains
- digestive problems
- sleeping troubles
- sleep more than usual
Often times, friends and family can be the first to notice symptoms, as it can be difficult to recognize them when you experience them.
This does not mean that men do not need or receive treatment.
On the contrary, “men may have more difficulty talking openly about their mental health and seeking support, as this may go against the type of messages they received growing up,” explains Dr Elena Touroni, consulting psychologist and co-founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic.
She goes on to note that many cultures have strong cultural stereotypes about how men should behave, especially about dealing with their emotions and appearing âstrongâ.
Additionally, men who don’t talk (or think they can’t) talk openly about their feelings might have a harder time recognizing the symptoms of mental health issues on their own.
If you’re thinking about asking for help but aren’t sure where to start, you have several options.
Talk to your doctor
If you already see a healthcare professional regularly, this can be a good place to start. Depending on their background, they will likely refer you to someone who specializes in mental health, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
You can also search online directories.
For example, the American Psychological Association offers a psychologist locator tool that allows you to search for therapists in your area. Directories are especially useful if you are looking for a particular type of therapy or prefer a male therapist, as the tools allow you to filter your search.
HeadsUpGuys also offers a therapist seeker which includes professionals who specialize in working with men.
Some other databases to consider:
Make calls (or send emails)
Before making an appointment, contact the therapists that interest you.
Give them some basic information on what you would like to tackle, as well as everything you are looking for in a therapist. Do you want someone who is available for overnight or weekend appointments? What about textual support between sessions? Are you interested in trying teletherapy or do you prefer in-person sessions?
If you have health insurance, this is also a good time to educate yourself about it. Therapy is not always covered, but some therapists will provide documents that you can submit to your insurer for reimbursement.
During the meeting
Your therapist will likely spend the first or two sessions getting to know you. This is also an opportunity for you to familiarize yourself with their approach, so feel free to ask questions about what you can expect from future sessions.
It is important that you feel comfortable speaking with the expert of your choice. If you feel like you aren’t âclickingâ with your therapist after a few sessions, you can always explore other options. Many people need to see a few therapists before they find someone who is right for them.
Depending on your symptoms, your therapist may refer you to a psychiatrist to explore medications, including antidepressants.
Keep in mind that medication is not necessarily something you will need to take for the rest of your life. Sometimes it just provides a temporary lift to help you start working on the underlying causes of your symptoms. A psychiatrist can also help you deal with any side effects you may be experiencing.
Everyone can benefit from personal care, including men. While working with a mental health professional can be a great help, there is a lot you can do to support yourself between sessions.
Touroni emphasizes diet, sleep and exercise as factors, but explains that âwe also need to make sure that we take care of our emotional well-beingâ.
And sometimes that means being “able to recognize and stay with feelings – especially those that are uncomfortable – instead of pushing them away or denying them.”
Sitting down with uncomfortable feelings is easier said than done, and it can make it easier to fall into unnecessary coping mechanisms, such as substance use or ignoring emotions.
While both of these may offer short-term benefits, they won’t provide long-term relief. In some cases, they can even create long-term problems.
The next time you have an uncomfortable feeling or emotion, try:
As you navigate through different ways to deal with your emotions, be gentle with yourself. If you don’t hit the âperfectâ coping mechanisms on a bad day, for example, don’t beat yourself up. There will always be another opportunity to practice new strategies.
Learn how to create your own self-care checklist that meets your needs.
Talking about what you’re going through with a friend can also be a big help, but it can be difficult if your friends are also men who might have a hard time opening up. But starting this conversation could end up being beneficial for both of you.
Mark Meier, executive director of the Face It Foundation, says it’s important that men “learn to understand the nuances of emotions” and recognize that negative emotions are “normal and recurring emotions throughout life.”
He recommends “finding someone to talk openly about your personal challenges and to open up to deeper relationships with others.”
Your therapist can certainly be that person, but you might also find it helpful to open up to a peer.
You can try to start the conversation with something like, âI’ve been through a lot. Do you have time to catch up later this week? “
If you feel like it, you can also make yourself available to a friend in need by simply saying, âI noticed you’ve been looking a little depressed lately. I just want you to know that I’m always available to talk if you need to.
Mental health can be hard to think about. And identifying that you find it difficult or that you might need help isn’t always easy, especially for men.
However, it is better to speak up. Whether you confide in a friend or family member or see your doctor, there are help and ways to manage your mental health on your own.
Adam England is a freelance writer and journalist. His work has been published in publications such as The Guardian, Euronews and VICE UK. It focuses on health, culture and lifestyle. When he’s not writing, he’s probably listening to music.