Men’s Health Month: Masculinity and Mental Health

According to research, men are less likely to seek mental health services compared to their female counterparts. One of the factors that contribute to this underuse of seeking professional help is masculinity norms.

June is Men’s Health Month; a month dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems and encourages early detection and treatment of diseases among men and boys. It is well understood that men are less likely to focus on their physical and mental health due to toxic masculinity that has been ingrained in society for hundreds of years. As a result, men often suffer from depression and anxiety in silence and turn to illicit drugs and alcohol as negative coping mechanisms and ways to numb their pain.

The silent health crisis

  • There is a silent health crisis happening among men in the United States.
  • The Men’s Health Network reports that men die at higher rates than women due to these top 10 causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • Men are less likely than women to see a physician
  • Men are more likely to be uninsured compared to women
  • Approximately 30,0000 men in the United States die from prostate cancer each year
  • Prostate cancer and skin cancers are the most common types of cancer in men.
  • Sexual dysfunction is a common health problem in men that can lead to an array of psychological setbacks such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
  • Sexual dysfunction is usually caused by atherosclerosis, the same process that causes heart attacks and strokes.
  • Men also die at a younger age compared to women.
  • In 1920, women outlived men only by one year. Today, CDC figures show the life expectancy gap has widened: Today, on average, women survive men by over five years.
  • Many men believe that as long as they are working and feel good, there is no need to see a doctor.

Men’s mental health matters

Mental health is a major component of a man’s well-being, and unfortunately, men’s mental health is often silenced in society. There is a catastrophic intersection of low rates of diagnosed depression and high rates of suicide and substance abuse among the U.S. male population. Men are more likely to use substances, at greater quantities, and are two to five times more likely than women to develop a substance use disorder (SAMSHA). Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more prevalent in men (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Men chronically use nonmedical opioids at twice the rate of women (even though women are prescribed them more often), and more men die of prescription drug overdoses than women (CDC). Men are more likely to use external methods to cope with the inward turmoil and pain caused by depression. Men often deal with depression by over-working. They also self-medicate by turning to substances such as drugs and alcohol as a way to avoid dealing with depression and anxiety.

The connection between toxic masculinity and substance abuse

Toxic masculinity refers to actions that discourage displays of emotion, other than anger, in men while also encouraging behavior that will deem the male “dominant” in a given situation. Even as children, young boys who express feelings are compared to girls in a negative context. Common responses to young males who become emotional include:

  • Boys don’t cry!
  • Man up!
  • Don’t be such a baby!
  • Don’t cry like a girl!
  • Be a man, get over it!
  • You throw like a girl!

Displaying traits of toxic masculinity can lead to numerous negative outcomes and adherence to rigid masculine norms may lead to:

  • Problems with dating and interpersonal intimacy
  • Greater depression and anxiety
  • Abuse of substances
  • Problems with interpersonal violence (sexual assault, spousal abuse)
  • Greater health risk (high blood pressure)
  • Greater overall psychological distress

Recovering from toxic masculinity

All recovery is a lifelong process, whether you are recovering from drugs, alcohol, codependency, or toxic masculinity. In fact, beyond these specific issues, every human life is truly one long recovery process. Born into a world that conditions fear and separation, we emerge as adults who are disconnected from our power, from our goodness, from each other. Once we recognize that there is a truer way of being, beneath what we were taught, every day is a chance to restore a bit more of our perspective from fear to love. Every moment is a chance to remember the truth of who we are: Whole, sacred beings who inherently deserve love and care.

Breaking the stigma

As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to men who are struggling internally and who are using illicit substances and alcohol to number their pain. Men want to be respected, men want to provide for their family, men want to work hard, men want to stay healthy, and men want to be loyal to their friends. If you are a male and are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you. We at Quest2Recovery, want to treat you, the individual, and not just your disorder. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment.

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