By Katie Davis
There’s still a stigma around men’s mental health.
In 2007, the Federal Agency for Healthcare for Research and Quality reported that only 2.12 out of every 100 men actually sought outpatient help for depression. However, suicide rates among men ages 40 to 49 have been rising for the last quarter century. Rates for men ages 50 to 59 also increased, particularly between 1999 and the early 2000’s.
“While it may not seem obvious in these days of macho yoga and stay-at-home fatherhood, the truth is that many American men hold to traditional values: real men are embodied by the archetypal ‘strong, silent type’ characters played by Clint Eastwood or Chuck Norris,” explained psychologist Betsy Bates Freed and investigative reporter David Freed in an article for the Pacific Standard.
Psychologist Ronald F. Levant even coined a term for this phenomenon among men – “normative male alexithymia,” which technically means “without words for emotions.” It begs the question over whether men actually recognize their own suffering.
Recently, AskMen published articles under “Mental Health for Men,” which take a look at how mental health affects men differently than women and why men are far less likely to seek help from healthcare providers.
AskMen noted that men are more likely to acknowledge physical symptoms and illness than things like emotional feelings of sadness, anger, worthlessness or guilt, but that even more physical signs could be used to detect more underlying problems.
“It is these physical symptoms, and other signs such as alcohol or drug dependence, that require greater recognition by men as possibly pointing toward an underlying illness of depression.”
-Feeling sad or empty
-Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious or angry
-Loss of interest in work, family or once-pleasurable activities, including sex
-Feeling very tired
-Not being able to concentrate or remember details
-Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
-Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
-Thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts
-Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems
-Inability to meet responsibilities of work, family or other important activities
The NIH urges men who experience any of these symptoms to seek out help from a health professional immediately: “Research shows that getting treatment sooner rather than later can relieve symptoms quicker and reduce the length of time treatment is needed.”
Other important steps can include breaking up large tasks into smaller ones without trying to do too many tasks at once, spending time with supportive friends or family members who will listen and not making important decisions alone until feeling better.