Traditionally, there has been a stigma surrounding men’s mental health. A man outwardly discussing his thoughts and feelings can be uncomfortable in the workplace, socially, and even at home. Culturally, we generally require our men to “suck it up” or “man up”. These phrases send the message that we are looking at behavior more and are not as concerned with men’s underlying thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, this is quite the dismissive attitude toward the men in our lives. Males learn at an early age that men don’t cry and that showing too much of certain emotions can be considered weakness in the eyes of the world. Men can lose confidence that their emotions are real and are valid. This message can often become a voice in a man’s head that tells him that he must deal with his burden on his own.
Therefore, men can tend to hold their true emotions tightly and express themselves through just a few socially acceptable emotions such as anger, anxiety, or even depression. Many times, men miss out on learning how to identify and are not taught how to handle difficult emotions. This means that they become less aware of how they feel due to sucking it up and shoving emotions down. Without an appropriate outlet to explore and resolve feelings men can be left to fall deeper into their problems, which in turn can lead to greater and more significant dysfunction. Men might turn to destructive coping mechanisms to vent their emotions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography, workaholism, gaming, or gambling to name just a few. These are merely avenues to distract themselves but are dangerous as they can also lead men down a dark path to even deeper dysfunction.
So, what men we do about it?
- Often just having someone listen without judgment can be truly helpful.
- Counseling. At times seeking a male counselor may make the therapeutic process feel more comfortable in discussing sensitive subjects.
- Talking to or seeking the counsel of other trusted men.
- Combining physical activity with fun and friends on a regular basis.
- Constructive hobbies that take men out of their usual work environments.
- Self-Care as a priority.
- Mindfulness including meditation, prayer, and becoming more aware of feelings that pop up.
- Keeping up with medical issues and visiting primary care physicians on schedule.
What can love ones do to help the men in their lives be more mentally healthy?
- Explore personal and family attitudes of how men should express themselves and work to make changes that might be necessary.
- Learn to look past the initial anger, anxiety, or depression to try and identify the underlying causes or emotions. This does not mean to ignore bad behavior but to look for what might be an underlying struggle.
- Be open to listening without judgment.
- Be willing to nurture self-care for the men in your life.
- Encourage open conversation with primary care physicians.
About the Author: Christi Walker, LPC
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