As we interact with our friends, our families, our partners, and our professional networks, men still have trouble with even using the words “mental health” in relation to how they feel. In recent years, society has begun to acknowledge the large role that gender norms, social taboos, and cultural contexts play in creating this environment, especially in the United States, but you might not be aware that there are other factors involved as well. These factors are gender, society, and culture, but they merit consideration on their own.

cropped Afshin nasseri

The Mindfulness Process

Here are three lesser-known reasons why many men still struggle with talking about their mental health:

1. Strategies are not targeted well to men. Mental health campaign indicates that men respond to humor and softer mental health language. Once men are engaged enough to learn more, there is much less resistance to having dialogues about mental health.

2. Men ask for help differently. Men are much more likely to accept help when there is a chance for reciprocity – that is, when they perceive an opportunity to help the other person in return. This wards off the feeling of “weakness” that is often associated with asking for help. Men also prefer to either fix or at least try to fix issues when possible, before reaching out for help at all. Instead of seeing this as a barrier, we should look for ways that loved ones, friends, doctors, and others can incorporate this to encourage healthier self-care strategies in men.

3. Men can express mental health problems differently, leading to mis- or under-diagnosis. Although men and women experience similar symptoms of some mental health concerns, how they manifest and present those symptoms can vary. Women respond to symptoms of depression with a more recognizable expression, they might appear disheartened, sad, or express that they feel worthless. Although men can demonstrate this as well, men present a more irritable affect –responding with anger, frustration, impulsivity, or a variety of other behaviors that aren’t always considered in the context of depression. In fact, these are often dismissed as “acting out.” Or if we respond with increased drug or alcohol use, these are normal American male behaviors!

When we talk about the health of an individual, we are not just talking about the absence of illness, but a state of mental, physical, and social well-being. Mental health is such a vital component of overall wellness but is often overlooked as a negligible determinant of our health. More than 42 million Americans experience a mental illness each year, and we are focusing on one group in particular this month. June is Men’s Health Month, and we are exploring the critical mental health needs of men, as part of their overall health and wellness. Dr. Nasseri refers to statistics to explain the gravity of mental health impact.

The following statistics help us to understand the complex needs surrounding men and their mental health:

Nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety: According to a poll of 21,000 American men by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly one in ten men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment.

Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women: Men experience a higher rate suicide than women. Depression, when left untreated, can in some cases reach a crisis point of suicidal contemplation. With so few men reaching out for help or support, and instead suffering in silence, this may be one reason why men face a higher suicide rate.

About 6 of every 10 men experience at least one trauma in their lives: Men are more likely to experience trauma related to accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury. PTSD can develop weeks, months, and sometimes even years after an experienced trauma, and can cause a person to relive the traumatic event, avoid places or situations that serve as a reminder of it, feeling on alert or keyed up for danger, experience nightmares or flashbacks, and several other troubling symptoms that can interfere with their everyday life.

Men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women: Not only do men binge drink more often than women, but men also consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations. Men are also more likely to have used alcohol before dying by suicide.

Forty-nine percent of men feel more depressed than they admit to the people in their life: A Today Show commissioned survey of more than 1,000 men revealed the truth that many assume. Men are much less likely to voice struggles with mental illness, and even thoughts of suicide.

Making the decision to start a conversation with a friend or loved one about mental health takes courage and strength. It’s likely that someone you know is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, and you have the power to make a difference in their lives. Men should consider whether they are looking after their mental fitness alongside their physical fitness?