Male Stereotyping & Mental Health

A handful of well known male artists have passed away due to depression that no one knew they actually had it! Many of the same difficulties are experienced by both men and women. It takes greater strength for anyone to open up but it’s a lot harder for a man to do. Anyone can hide behind their feelings, but to be able to say, “Listen, I’m struggling”, that takes real strength.

Stigmatisation towards men are self-evident and yet phrases like ‘man-up’ and ‘act like a man’ are still being used. Men have to put on an ‘I am okay’ mask just to avoid being looked down upon by his family or friends. A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They still see depression as a sign of imperfection. Being manly has its limit as these feelings can be literally life threatening. 

Men tend to be OK with their friends but are often reluctant to seek help from professionals. It’s still a challenge to even go to the clinic for flu, yet alone seek help with emotional issues.

A recent study has shown that:

  • 40% of men said it would take thoughts of suicide or self-harm first and only then they seek professional help
  • 77% of men have suffered with anxiety/stress/depression 
  • Majority of men claim their mental health have a negative impact on their work performance, parenting ability and relationships in particular
  • The biggest pressures in men’s life are work (32%), finance (31%) and health (23%)

Few men have taken a poll on why don’t they seek for help and they have answered:

  • ‘I’ve been like this and can deal with it’ (40%) 
  • ‘I don’t wish to be a trouble to anyone’ (36%)
  • ‘I’m ashamed’ (29%)
  • ‘Men don’t do this. It’s a stigma’ (20%)
  • ‘I don’t need support’ (17%)
  • ‘I am not weak’ (16%)
  • ‘I have no one to talk to’ (14%)

Common men’s mental health issues. 

1. Social isolation

These feelings affect all types and ages of people. Feeling lonely and isolated is not fun. Especially when one is going through a rough time. In man this is still a gigantic issue. Men are known to bottling up feelings. When they think they have no one to talk to, they tend to look for an easy way out. Let it be substance abuse or suicide. Suffering from loneliness is kind of like suffering from physical pain just that it involves mental and emotional too. Loneliness can increase the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) response that is the physiological reaction a person has when facing a threat. This is when some men tend to lash out and do the unthinkable. 

2. Stress

Ahh..yes! The good ol’ stress. Is there anyone out there stress-free? Stress takes place when there is an imbalance between demand and deliver. When the demand increases, everyone is expected to deliver as much, but some tend to forget. We are human too. We are only capable of that much. One can be expecting us to deliver as much as a robot would. This is when the demand exceeds the delivery, stress goes off the roof! This also causes discomfort and distress and can lead to other men’s mental health problems including anxiety and depression. There are many forms of stress to men ; work stress, family stress, husband-wife stress, children well being stress, financial stress and the lists go on. 

3. Depression 

This intense sense of feeling can last from a week to a month to over few years. Downside of this feeling, it can and will interrupt in our daily life style. One with depression may feel zoned out and will have a hard time to focus on life. In a man, depression is often seen as a sign of weakness. Because of these ideas, men often focus on the physical rather than the emotional symptoms of depression and often talk about feeling angry or irritable rather than sad. Some men choose to not talk about their depression till its severe, if at all. Untreated depression can negatively affect your relationships, your daily lifestyle, and can lead to drug and alcohol problems. In the worst case, this may cost your life. 

4. Anxiety

Another common disorder but always overlooked. Anxiety is a consistent state of extreme worry or fear. You might try to avoid certain situations because certain things may trigger you and might make you worried. Some may also experience physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, upset stomach, nausea, and a racing heartbeat. Anxiety may start to affect your personal relationships and impact your daily activities. Anxiety and depression often occur together. I have closely worked with depressed men, they also experience panic or anxiety together with depression. So, its okay to feel all these. Remember, you are not alone! 

Tough enough to talk about it.

Did you know, compared to all the other groups of people, men are the highest group and they are leading in the suicide scale. Talking about suicide to someone can be very difficult. However, if you choose the right person, then talking and sharing your feelings with them will usually help. 

What should you do if you are at this point? Look for help! Your life is precious to you and to everyone around you. In Malaysia we have certain hotline number that you can talk and share anonymously. Be very clear and extremely honest with them about all of the things that are troubling you, including your suicidal thoughts and feelings. With these information, it will be easier to help you and hence a better outcome for you!  

Help yourself!

The following are things that other people found helpful when feeling overwhelmed to the point of wanting to harm themselves. You may experiment with some of the ideas. Keep a list of the ones that you think  might be helpful, you may refer back to them when you need to.

  • Think of a similar episode of what you are experiencing now, and ways you dealt with it. Can you do the same things now?
  • Jot down what made you feel better in the previous episode when you felt overwhelmed.
  • Try to stay in the present. Often times, when one is in this harmful situation is because they are reflecting back on the past. Do something today that may make you feel better. 
  • Do something that will make you happy. Listen to music or dance! Do something that will calm you.
  • Go for a short walk. Avoid being in the same messy place that might trigger you.
  • Look at your loved one faces. Spend time with them.
  • Drawing/sketching/painting
  • Writing. This is the best practiced method. Some writes down their feelings that they can reflect on later. 
  • Reconnecting with areas of your life that give you a sense of meaning e.g. spirituality, social service, your vocation
  • Taking some time out to treat yourself. 

No one said it’s going to be easy, but maintaining a daily routine and keeping active can all help you feel more able, and help you to keep on top of things. With patience and practice, you too will be able to turn over a new leaf.  

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