MEN'S MENTAL HEALTH - LET'S TALK ABOUT IT 

By Don Dinnematin (aka The Don Father)

In general, men tend to put off getting any kind of help because they are taught to be tough, self-reliant, able to manage pain and take charge of situations. This can make it hard for men to acknowledge they have any health problems, let alone a mental health problem.

Since birth, us men are typically taught to be strong, to become leaders and that emotions are a sign of weakness, not masculinity. There is also the notion that talking about it won’t help anyway, yet ignoring mental health disorders will not make them go away.
Although mental health affects all genders, it is often overlooked in men, perhaps even considered a weakness if we are struggling with it, or not taken as seriously. Because of this, many men may find it difficult to speak up about their mental illness or be more reluctant to seek treatment to help them manage their symptoms.

Take 2 minutes and check on him. Find out what is going on in his head. Offer to listen, and give your undivided attention. As men, we don't always voice our concerns or the challenges we may be facing. For me, I work on this constantly and have made improvements in these areas of communication, which has been key to an overall improvement of managing stress.

Being a husband and a father, I'd like to nurture my sons to have the confidence and freedom to talk about their feelings openly. Without feeling ashamed, confused or made to feel like men cannot speak up about their mental state, emotions or depression. 
In America, it is estimated that up to 6 million men have depression each year – about half the figure for women. In focus groups conducted by the NIMH, “men described their own symptoms of depression without realizing they were depressed.” They made no connection between their mental health and physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems and chronic pain.

What Factors Can Lead to Male Mental Health Issues?

A range of factors can contribute to the development of mental health issues in men, such as:
 
  • Poor working conditions or a high workload: Work stress and a lack of social support have been associated with a higher likelihood of mental health issues in men.
  • Childhood abuse/family issues: Any detrimental issue that occurs in childhood can lead to an increased risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.
  • Loss of work: Unemployment and retirement are associated with an increased risk of depression in men. 
  • Separation and divorce: Often, men tend to see themselves as being providers and the one to keep the family happy. Depression is more prevalent and more severe among divorced men.
  • Financial issues: Economic factors are a top cause of stress for many people and could play a role in the development of certain mental health disorders.
  • Substance abuse: Men may be more likely to use drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with mental health issues, though such ‘self-medication’ can make things worse in the long run.

Seek Help - The Rewards Are Worth It

Treatment can provide several important benefits, such as:
  •     Helping you understand your condition.
  •     Reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
  •     Enabling you to set and achieve specific wellness goals.
  •     Improving your ability to deal with stress.
  •     Helping improve your relationships with family and friends.
  •     Reducing or eliminating negative or destructive behaviours, like overeating or overspending.
Peer support and group counselling can be particularly helpful and can help destigmatize mental illness.

Moving forward

It starts with us, fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and friends - let us pave the way to open communication, and the freedom to express ourselves and what we are going through. 

Raising awareness about men and their vulnerability to depression may help in reducing the stigma attached to mental health. More funding and more specialists in this area will also encourage ongoing research into male mental health.
Oh, and one last thing: Go nuts - Chemicals found in nuts reduce memory-harming brain plaque by 62%.
SOURCES: 
  • ”What Factors Can Lead to Male Mental Health Issues?” Information source: beyondblue.org.au
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