Mental health care is trending in the United States, and yet, the majority of people who need some form of professional help to manage a mental health condition rarely seek it.
Studies show that men in particular are generally very reluctant to seek professional help for a wide range of issues, but mental health challenges especially. The exact reasons why this is will vary slightly per male, depending on the unique factors in each of their lives, but oftentimes, it’s due to the deep-seated stigma that’s been instilled throughout our culture.
Unhealthy conventional projections or expectations of men have led to a variety of stigmas to be developed, such as the belief that mental health is a “feminine issue”, that talking (therapy) “won’t fix anything” or that seeking professional help is a sign of weakness.
Learning about these stigmas is one of the first steps in playing our part to break them, as well as being essential for reframing your own beliefs about professional help.
What is mental health stigma?
Stigma is a negative belief, stereotype or label that’s been attached to something in particular, like a specific characteristic, condition or behavior. Generally, stigma is divided into two categories, internal stigma and external stigma.
Internal stigma refers to the individual thoughts, emotions and beliefs a person holds towards themselves; external stigma refers to the prejudice, judgment and negative attitudes directed towards the person by others.
Mental health stigma refers to negative stereotypes and beliefs directed towards mental health, mental health treatment and those within or involved in the mental health community.
Where does men’s mental health stigma come from?
Stigmas are developed over time, and enforced in unique circumstances, depending on a person’s childhood, guardians, upbringing and young adulthood.
One man may have developed an aversion to mental health care because he only ever saw mental health portrayed in a more feminine manner — i.e. women drinking smoothies as they journal about their emotions. He may have come to think of mental health as a girly or frivolous practice, and genuinely never looked into it any more than that.
Another man may have developed an aversion to mental health care through his upbringing — i.e. his father used to hit him whenever he showed too much emotion or distress. These actions instilled in him a “macho bravado” that feelings aren’t masculine in nature.
The stigmas in the mental health community are vast, but the outcomes of these individuals who never receive some form of support are often the same.
Why stigmas are dangerous
Without the assistance of professional help, men can develop destructive patterns of dangerous behaviors as a coping mechanism for their mental health issues. This often includes substance abuse issues and self-destructive or addictive behaviors like gambling.
It doesn’t help that these paths are commonly portrayed as normal male behavior in many songs, movies and other forms of entertainment. Each of those unfortunately makes getting drunk at a bar often seem like a much “better” option than finding a therapist.
When left unaddressed and unhealed, these mental health and behavioral issues can wreak immense havoc and pain in our lives. If you think you or someone you love might be struggling with a mental health or co-occurring disorder, send us a message.
Break the stigma today
One of the most powerful ways we can actively work on breaking the stigma is by seeking treatment when we need it. The more men who normalize receiving mental health treatment, in the same way, going to the gym is normalized for physical health, the more lives can be improved.
Sometimes we don’t know what kind of help we need until it’s offered to us. Give us a call to learn more about how Real Recovery can help you reclaim your health and life.