What are Mental Health Problems in Men
How many times have you heard the words "I'm fine" when asking your husband / boyfriend / father / son / boyfriend about their mental health? The truth is, it can be difficult to start a dialogue with men about the emotional and mental challenges they may face because they have been taught to "become a man" or "get over it". While these barriers and societal expectations can be difficult to break down, you don't need special training to have an open conversation about mental health with loved ones.
Here are some easy ways to get the men in your life talking and connect them to help when they need professional mental health assistance.
Make an observation
Unlike physical health problems, mental health problems are not always immediately apparent. While you may not always know exactly what is going on with someone, changes in mood or behavior are generally good indicators of an underlying problem. Even if you are unsure of the difficulties someone might face, you can start the conversation by making an observation about something that has been different lately.
"Hey, I've noticed that you've been a little more tired than usual lately. Are you okay?"
If you notice a simple change in mood or behavior, it can be a way of expressing your concern without making any assumptions that could make someone feel defensive or cornered. For men who have a hard time talking directly about their feelings, this can be an effective way to work towards the emotional part of a problem by talking about the surrounding factors first.
Share your experience
One of the biggest barriers men face in seeking help with their mental health is isolation and the fear of being singled out or different. For many men living in a culture of toxic masculinity, vulnerability is viewed as a sign of weakness and is often negatively associated with femininity. This comes on common phrases like "man up" and "don't cry like a girl". Often times, these toxic beliefs are ingrained and the result is that men are less likely to seek medical or psychological help than any opposite sex.
You can help break down these stereotypes about "toughness" by sharing your own mental health experiences.
“You know, when I was going through my depression, it was really hard for me to focus on work. Does that sound like what you're going through? "
By sharing your own experiences, you not only help normalize the mental health issue, but you also help the other person feel safe and understood.
Go and talk
Talking about mental health can be difficult and cumbersome, but in order to have a productive conversation, you want to make the experience as comfortable and non-threatening as possible. Interventional style conversations can be intimidating and lead to someone pulling out of the conversation altogether. Instead, try to keep yourself occupied with them during an activity that they enjoy.
“You look like you could use some fresh air. Wanna go for a walk and talk "
Hiking is a wonderful activity that offers many mental and physical health benefits - it has been shown to relieve or reduce stress, improve a person's cognition (thinking), and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.
Recognize difficult situations
You may not always know what is wrong with someone, but there will be times when you are aware of particularly difficult situations or know that that person has had mental illnesses in the past. In these cases, you can be more direct but still be respectful and demonstrate your genuine concern.
"I know losing a grandparent is difficult, but I'm here for you if you want to talk."
By addressing the problem directly, you open the door to a conversation that the other person may have found uncomfortable or embarrassed when they first spoke up. You can also leave it open and let them know that you are there to listen to them and speak whenever they are ready.
If you get wiped off with answers like “I'm fine” or “I'm fine” when trying to bring up the mental health issue, ask twice and show that you really care. A lot of men feel they shouldn't have to ask for help and it's easy to interrupt the conversation when the affected party stops pushing. In this case, an effective strategy is to make sure you ask them the question a second time.
"No, really, how are you? You are important to me."
Research has shown that when asked, 78% of people say they are fine even if they are struggling with a mental health problem. Concerns such as doubt whether people really want to hear the honest answer and not incriminate others were cited as the main reasons for avoiding these conversations. That second question, however, could be the opening someone has been waiting to finally talk about.
When to get professional help
Everyone faces challenges and obstacles in life to put down, but some difficulties can outweigh others and turn into a mental illness. If you notice yourself or other warning signs such as substance abuse or addiction, increased risk behavior, loss of interest in passions or hobbies, and changes in diet or routine, it may be time to seek professional help. Organizations like Heads Up Jungs have free online depression self-assessment tools that can help you spot warning signs. Jefferson Center also offers a variety of behavioral health services for adults, seniors, and children to help you manage mental health issues.
It is important to stand up for the mental health of the men in your life and to fight against stigma. We all have mental health and should all be able to talk about it when we face difficult moments in life. Whether it's a friend, family member, or coworker, you can open the door to a real conversation and give someone the help they need to thrive.
Do you want to take these tips with you wherever you go? Click the image to download our visual guide, “Ways to Start a Mental Health Conversation With The Men In Your Life”.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call us at 303-425-0300 or call 844-493-8255. The 24/7 Crisis Walk-In Center and Withdrawal Management Program is open at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.
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