Erasing the Stigma: Mental Health for Men

By: Jason M. Jowers, MS

young man standing in front of a chalkboard with drawn flexed arms on board
Pixabay[Portrait of Young Man by pixabay on Feb 20, 2019, CC0]
The stigma of getting treatment for mental health issues is something that is pretty common in our society and culture. We seem to have this idea of mental illness as less than other health issues that can persist. This can often lead to shame for many who are already suffering with mental health issues.

First off, we must find ways to fight mental health stigma. This post from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) [1] shared 9 ways to fight against mental health stigma and make it possible for advocacy in the mental health community. These suggestions include: talking openly about mental health, educating yourself, being conscious of the language you use, showing genuine compassion, and choosing empowerment.

This stigma is also far reaching and affects various populations, including men. In my own work with clients, male clients were often guarded and untrusting to begin with. It seems to go back to the idea that men are strong and can handle anything that’s thrown at them. Men don’t cry, share their feelings, etc. These persistent norms about masculinity oftentimes leave many men suffering in silence. So, how can we get past this stigma and make it where men feel at ease with dealing with their mental health problems?

This article from U.S. News [2] focuses on strategies to break down these barriers to mental health counseling for men.

The program discussed in the article, Healthy Men Michigan, looks at how treatment is presented and finds alternatives that male clients might be more open to engaging in other than talk therapy. These include infusing physical activity, like exercising or even hobbies, with mental health initiatives. Humor is also a good way to break down barriers and can help all clients in general feel more at ease. Finally, to be aware of how gender plays a role in how emotions and behaviors are expressed. Anger is typically a “normal” emotion that men can express, but may be in response to feeling depression or anxiety. Knowing these signs can be beneficial in helping men express themselves appropriately.

For more on breaking down the barriers of mental health, view our archived webinar, “Staying Strong by Seeking Help: Barriers and Facilitators to Mental Health Treatment-Seeking.” This 90 minute webinar addresses the barriers and stigma of mental health treatment among military personnel. CEUs still available!

Also, read our past blog post, “Dissolving the Myth of the Loony Line: The Effects of Stigma on Military Personnel Mental Health Treatment Seeking.” It includes an introduction and the research of Dr. Thomas Britt, our presenter for the Staying Strong by Seeking Help webinar.

References

[1] Greenstein, L. (2017). 9 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/october-2017/9-ways-to-fight-mental-health-stigma
 
[2] Levine, D. (2018). How Can Men Fight the Stigma of Dealing with Mental Health Problems? U.S. News. Retrieved from: https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-02-09/how-can-men-fight-the-stigma-of-dealing-with-mental-health-problems
 
This post was written by members of the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Learn more about our team at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/family-development, and connect with us on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Subscribe to our Anchored. podcast series on iTunes and via our podcast page.

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