Men’s mental health care is important. There are specific influencing factors which result in if, how and when men access mental health services. All of which can complicate the process for men and result in challenges which could have been otherwise minimised. What are the realities of these factors which impact men’s mental health care?
Defining Mental Health
Mental health determines how we think, feel, interact and relate to the world around us. This means that it literally impacts our daily lives in uncountable ways. Sadly, despite its importance, there has been a longstanding prejudice against seeking mental health care. Particularly for men. Most often, starting when we are quite young, we are taught how to look after our physical health. We exercise, are made aware of what we eat and advised to get enough sleep. However, this is not the case when it comes to our mental health. In fact, for the most part it is side-lined until things reach crisis point, or have spiralled into it being deemed a mental health disability.
Mental Health can be Determined by:
- Biological Factors: Genetics and brain chemistry.
- Life Experiences: Stresses and difficulties, traumatic events and learnt behaviours.
The impact of not seeking mental health care is a dire one. It has consequences which can be debilitating and derail a man’s life completely. As well as negatively impact those that he cares about. Practically, it can result in him losing his job due to his inability to perform and deliver. The longer we wait to access health care the more complex a problem becomes. Consequently, the road to recovery can become longer and unnecessarily harder than it would otherwise be.
Common Indicators of a Mental Health Breakdown
These signs can be universal. However, they have been identified as pertaining particularly to a breakdown in a man’s mental health.
5 Signs of Mental Breakdowns in Men
- Working obsessively, without breaks and for lengthier periods.
- Engaging in more risky behaviours.
- Drinking more or taking harmful substances, including excessive use of over-the counter medications.
- Becoming increasingly more controlling and/or abusive to those around them.
- Battling to function properly and achieve everyday tasks or uphold usual responsibilities.
Men’s Mental Health and Masculinity
In general women seek health care more readily and sooner than men do. Thus, an important factor in addressing men’s mental health is timing.
Mental health problems are a universal issue. However, they can impact men and women differently. This is largely because of how they manifest. It is thought that this is impart due to the divergent way that men and women’s mental health is framed. In other words, it is a “side effect” which results in different manifestations of the same illness, for example, depression. Practically, this means that counsellors and psychologists often need to take a different approach when treating a man.
Adding into the mix is the complexity of society’s general perception of men’s mental health issues. In many contexts, men seeking health care is perceived as a weakness. And even more so with regards to their mental health care seeking behaviour. This perception that men’s health is linked to their masculinity is prejudice and dangerous. It also holds no truth and is something that health care advocates continuously work towards correcting and mitigating.
5 Factors which Influence Men’s Mental Health
- Stereo-types: Society’s perceptions of what it means to be a man.
- Sexual orientation: Those within the LGBTQ+ community find it more difficult to access health care services than those within mainstream communities.
- Stigma: Fear of prejudice, being side-lined and negatively labelled.
- Denial: Admitting you have a problem is difficult. Especially one that is mental and not as easy to empathise and understand as, for example, a broken leg is.
- Practicality: Accessing mental health care is not always a straight-forward process. Often there is a shortage of access points. It is also something that is often not accessible at all in more rural contexts. Another common problem is the affordability of healthcare.
4 Factors which Improve Men’s Mental Health
- Self-care: Developing routines which are healthy and balanced is essential. Ensuring that you get enough sleep, eat properly and aerobic exercise can all assist in ensuring a healthier mental state.
- Social Networks: Establishing a good and supportive social network can have the benefit of decreasing stress levels. It also often leads to more participation in communal hobbies and sports. Additionally, when needed, a man will have a go-to community to practically support him while he’s recovering.
- Education: There is a big need to teach people about mental health care, address misconceptions and work at mitigating prejudices. All of which will reduce many of the barriers to health care that men in particular face.
- Research: Researchers need to engage with communities to identify why men don’t seek health care. This information needs to translate into practical and easy to implement solutions. Ideally, taking into account the nuances present in different communities.
Does Anyone Care about Men’s Mental Health?
There are many people and organisations which care about men’s mental health care. Additionally, they are making great strides in encouraging awareness and breaking down barriers as well as dissipating prejudices. Are you passionate about assisting people and would you like to be part of the movement of encouraging men to access mental health care? Then consider studying at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). SACAP runs accredited courses in a range of fields such as Psychology, Counselling and Coaching. Enrol online today!
1. Why is men's mental health important?
Mental health can impact every area of a man’s life. Good mental health can translate into success and a satisfying life. Whereas challenging mental problems can derail and immobilise a man.
2. Why don't men seek mental health care?
There are a number of factors which prevent men from timeously accessing mental health care. Some of these are: Stereo-types and stigma, sexual orientation, denialism, practicality and accessibility of services.
3. Is a man's masculinity linked to mental health?
No, mental health challenges are universal and can be experienced by anyone, at any point in their lives. Linking a man’s manliness to his mental health is dangerous, prejudicial and unfair to both him and his loved ones.