The conversations around Men’s Health in June tend to revolve around the physical self. Cancer and diabetes are the most talked about issues, but the topics need to go further. The mental health of men in the U.S. often drifts to the wayside until it is forgotten.
The suicide rate of men in the United States is over three and a half times higher than women. It’s highest amongst middle-aged white men and the rate of suicide has been increasing since 2010 (with a small decrease in 2019). Suicide is the number ten cause of death in the United States.
Ten years of increasing mens’ suicide rates. Why hasn’t there been change? The answer is a complex series of social factors that require deep community and legislative solutions.
The biggest factor to suicide rates amongst men is societal pressure to conform to masculine gender roles. The pressure to be masculine forces men to do (or not do) things they would have otherwise. You’ve heard phrases like “be a man,” “boys don’t cry,” and “there’s no crying in baseball.” All of these are told to boys in their adolescence and reinforce the idea that men should not express their emotions. Boys and men who do express themselves are at risk of being bullied for “being a sissy.” Not only does this standard cause men to repress their emotions and try to handle tough mental issues by themselves, but it leads to many other risk factors.
As the men are told to follow masculine standards, emotions and mental issues are repressed. This leads to men not being taught how to effectively and healthily communicate and work through their emotions. Instead, they attempt to work their problems out by themselves. Men are less likely to seek out professional support for their health needs, physical and mental. Studies suggest men are less likely to be diagnosed with depression simply because they do not seek out professional help.
Without professional support for physical and mental well-being, men may be more likely to self-medicate for their health, including drugs and alcohol. This continual downward spiral leads to feeling as if no one can help, and potentially suicide.
It’s imperative to actively deconstruct the standard that today’s society hold men to. If you are able to, offer your support to the men in your life. Let them know that you are there for them. Ensure them that seeking professional help does not reflect on their masculinity or fortitude. Allow men to express their emotions in ways that healthy, including crying and art. Support public endeavors to give men access to mental health care, especially to those who are unable to afford it themselves. Just by being a supportive person in letting men feel can lead to suicide prevention.
If you are feeling depressed, it is important to have a professional support system. Call Cape Coral/Ft. Myers Therapists at (239) 565-6921 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.