There’s a bit of generalized irony when it comes to men seeking mental health care. It’s not usually something that’s a priority and often only done when things reach crisis point. However, once a guy starts on their mental health care path, they tend to commit and really value the assistance.
What prevents a lot of men from initially seeking mental healthcare before a pang becomes a crisis? And are there ways we can better buffer our mental health ahead of even a pang?
Why do Men Delay Medical Attention?
Delaying medical attention can have deadly consequences. In fact, on average, men tend to live for 6 years less than women. Research shows that this is linked to preventable deaths, for example treatable cancers and suicide.
Top 3 Reasons Why Men Delay seeing a Doctor
- Stigma and Stereotyping
- Fear of an Embarrassing Diagnosis
Annually, in November, Movember campaigns seek to address these three factors and encourage men to seek timeous health care. Within this context it starts to make sense that they would be especially disincentivized to mental health care. This is because mental health care requires examination of feelings, which is often toxically labelled as something “unmanly” to do. Furthermore, seeking mental health care often means that we will have to stop denying something is wrong. This means stopping “faking” we ok and talking about what’s really been happening. Finally, it could result in an “embarrassing” diagnosis such as anxiety, which also may feel like you’re admitting defeat.
Why Mental Health Care Campaigns Miss Men
Research has found that there are a few additional reasons why men aren’t spurred into addressing mental health issues. One being that mental health care campaigns don’t grab their attention. It has been found that men’s attention is best caught through humor. Particularly “dark” humor. This is not something that’s often used within health promotion. Once attention is grabbed, it’s ideal for a mental health campaign to introduce aspects of mental health care in a thought provoking manner. This is not very easy to do.
3 Ways to Buffer Your Mental Health
Mental health determines how we think, feel, interact and relate to the world around us. It’s therefore very important to look after, such that an investment of time and money in it won’t be wasted.
Self-Care involves learning to care for yourself beyond doing the basics. Practically you can:
- Actively plan to try new things and make time to do things that you enjoy, especially those that relax you.
- Create healthier patterns, particularly in relation to sleep, exercise and eating.
Pay attention to how you feel. Rather than suppressing or ignoring emotions, take time out to ask why am I actually angry or frustrated? What’s the underlying cause, not the reason that’s currently sparked my tantrum like feelings?
1. Building up Emotional Resilience
This means being able to maintain a good feeling regardless of what’s happening around us. You can grow your emotional resilience through:
- Building healthier relationships with others by making an effort to regularly communicate and then share honestly with select people.
- Monitor your inner monologue. Keep it honest but modify your tone to be fair, realistic, kind and positive.
Manage your stress levels by carving out downtime, limiting work hours and asking for assistance when it could make things easier.
2. Develop Supportive Frameworks
Develop Supportive Frameworks across the various areas of your life. This can be done by:
- Brushing up on your communication skills with your partner. Doing a course together or seeing a couple’s counsellor, before hitting the inevitable difficult patches, isn’t admitting defeat. It’s called future-proofing. The purpose is to maximize how well you work together and learn ahead of time how to better prevent conflict.
- Keep a Coach on hand. Finding someone that you can work well with ahead of when you need someone is ideal. A life coach helps provide external perspective, unbiased encouragement as well as accountability, in both personal and work spaces. They are excellent at assisting one to see the reality of situation, plan a way forward and consistently implement it.
Find someone who you are comfortable bouncing things off of and whose opinion you value. Formally it could be within a mentorship type program. However, it might also be less formal. Like, someone who you trust to bounce things off when you walk past their office or while refilling your coffee mug.
When is it Time to Ask for Help
Things can reach a point where self-care and building resilience aren’t enough anymore and your frameworks are stretched too far. If someone is experiencing any of these below symptoms, then it is best to encourage them to seek outside help.
Seek Mental Health Care if You are Experiencing:
- Changes in moods, either erratic mood-swings or consistently opposite to usual.
- Difficulty in carrying out everyday tasks, at home or at work.
- An inability to concentrate, focus or remember things.
- Weight gains or losses.
- Reoccurring physical symptoms such as stomach and muscle pains or headaches.
- Not wanting to be around other people or do things that used to be enjoyable.
- Increasing feelings of dejection, hopeless, sad or trapped.
- The need to use drugs, alcohol, nicotine or medication to cope.
Who should I get Mental Health Care from?
Each specialist has a particular focus. Thus, within the process of getting the right care, you need to choose what type of support will work best for you.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialised in diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illnesses. They might prescribe medication, often in conjunction with talk therapy.
- Psychologists focus on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional and behaviour problems. They provide talk therapy. They meet regularly with clients to assist them to cope with problems and practically adjust habits or behaviour.
- Counsellors (called Registered Counsellors in South Africa) provide short term support, for instance in the cases of trauma. They provide interventions to assist with better every day and long-term functioning.
- Social Workers provide support for individuals and families during difficult periods. They focus on assessing circumstances to improve outcomes of people’s lives and then provide sustainable interventions or solutions.