Gender roles and societal trends ensure that men are traditionally portrayed as the stronger sex. They are more prone to give greater importance to physical fitness rather than mental health. Men are less likely to introspect and often ignore what can be potential triggers to mental health issues. The silent crisis is so termed as men display tendencies to stay silent and are more likely to try and not acknowledge a “crisis” till it’s too late.
Why are men conditioned to endure mental agony silently?
Men have been so conditioned by conventional behaviour that they refuse to talk about what bothers them and do not feel comfortable discussing issues that make them upset or depressed. They are taught to think that they should not cry or express emotions freely as it is unmanly and is judged as a sign of weakness.
So although the rate of depression is lower in men rather than women, men are more likely to not seek help and may even be driven to suicide. Men display symptoms of depression differently than women.
- They may become irritable and snap at family and colleagues irrationally.
- Some take to alcohol or substance abuse. Excessive smoking and drinking that is not habitual may be an indicator of stress.
- Many men complain of back or head pain that may linger even after treatment. These may be symptoms of underlying anxiety, stress or depression.
- Insomnia is common and may lead to other health issues too.
- There may be instances of road rage and reckless behaviour.
- Men tend to withdraw from friends and social activities. They are less inclined to going out and prefer to stay at home, sometimes binge-watching television or indulging in other mindless activity.
- Some men may face a decline in sexual desire and suffer impotence too. This may be a strong indication of high-stress levels and depression.
- It is important that friends and family should recognize these signs and step forward to help. Most men see mental health issues as a weakness and refuse to be helped. It is imperative that trusted family and friends take corrective action and gently nudge him to seek help. It is important to have the support of loved ones to face the crisis and resolve it too.
Ways in which men can overcome mental health related struggles
The most important thing is to make it clear to the affected man that it is alright to have issues and that it can be treated. They need to be made to understand that depression or other mental health issues are common and can be helped. It is foremost to persuade them to see a physician who may guide them to seek professional help from a Psychiatrist or partake professional counseling.
- It is important to help the male child from the beginning to talk and express their feelings. There needs to be a 360-degree change in the way men are taught to perceive manliness. The parents need to be conscious about inculcating ways and means in their male child’s psyche to learn to identify and express emotions in a healthy manner.
- A strong social network is ideal to create a safety net that helps individuals to remain happy and connected. A sense of isolation is the main culprit behind many mental health issues. It is important to have someone to reach out to in times of stress or impending depression.
- Exercise has been known to dispel depressive tendencies. A healthy lifestyle may be ideal to keep the man mentally fit too. Some foods like dark chocolate, fresh fruits and dairy products and others have been promising in alleviating stress symptoms. Learning to use stress management techniques like meditation or yoga may benefit both physical and mental health.
- If these seem inadequate, studies show that medical intervention helps in containing and treating depression in over 75% cases. It is to be stressed that reaching out for professional help is not to be perceived as a sign of weakness. It is as important to maintain mental health as it is important to see a medical doctor for a physical ailment. After all, sound health comprises of a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Male mental health issues have been largely ignored and deserve to be taken seriously. It is indeed a ‘silent’ or ‘sleeper’ issue and needs to be addressed urgently. Steps should be taken to dissolve the stigma attached to seeking professional help. A cultural shift should focus on creating a gender-fluid community where male and female children are both allowed to acknowledge and express their emotions freely. The child learns through mimicking the actions of elders, so parents have to be careful in the role they play in creating mindsets that display support, openness and a willingness to express emotion. It is important that male adults are reconditioned to being honest and open about their emotions. This will foster in them healthy ways to cope with stressors and anxiety. When the open conversation becomes common, barriers to seek help will disintegrate.