The stigma still exists: “Real men” don’t whine about their physical, mental or emotional problems. They work it out, suck it up or walk it off. Although more men are seeking professional help to overcome mental health issues, they often still feel stigmatized by society-mostly by other men-as being weak.
Why don’t men ask for help?
Historically, boys didn’t talk about their emotions or thoughts, so they failed to develop words to describe their feelings. The inability to name emotions made it difficult for boys to discuss their thoughts with friends or family.
Men and boys often dismiss most problems as nuisances, and try to solve them alone or through a network of relatives and friends. But some issues may seem overwhelming or too personal. Failure to address the problems may lead to depression.
Signs of depression
Men often hide depression by becoming workaholics. Other methods of covering up depression can include anger, drinking and withdrawal. In fact, many men reach the pinnacle of their careers and realize they don’t have friends or an emotional connection with a spouse or lover. Many don’t even realize they’re depressed.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- feeling more tired in the morning
- becoming more irritable
- becoming isolated
- feeling less satisfied with sex
- acting in ways their fathers did when they were depressed
- craving alcohol and food
If you are having mental or emotional problems, consult your primary care physician or a professional therapist. Often a spouse, relative or close friend can point out the signs and suggest resources.
Men’s activity groups, such as an evening basketball league, often can function as support groups. Once men form friendships, they tend to discuss personal affairs after finishing an activity. Men who have experienced similar problems may share their stories, assuring a friend in need that asking for help doesn’t mean surrendering masculinity.
By Ben Martin, Psy.D.