9 reasons why men won’t discuss their mental health

9 reasons why men won’t discuss their mental health:

Man contemplating suicide —
Image by alamy.com

After a survey, the Priory (A Private Care Group) said that 40% of men won’t talk to anyone about their mental health, and here are some of the reasons:

  1. Some say they just deal with it, or they’ve learnt how to ignore it
  2. Many would say they’re too embarrassed to admit to it
  3. They’re afraid of the stigma
  4. They don’t want to burden anyone i.e. wife
  5. Some don’t want to admit they need support or don’t want to come across as weak and
  6. some don’t have anyone to talk to
  7. They don’t feel comfortable even talking to their GP, worried they’re wasting their Doctors’ time
  8. Afraid if they mention it, they’ll lose their job or their partner
  9. Worry that by displaying their vulnerability, they’ll lose the respect of others.

Why the problem with men and mental health?

Shadow of sad man hanging – Image by istockphoto.com

It really does come down to the way men were brought up and the messages they learned at home or in the playground, “Get up, don’t be a cissy.” and “You’re a boy, you need to be brave.” These are very dated and dysfunctional responses to little boys and we have much to do to change all this.

Still, is it any wonder men have a hard time seeking support? But because men don’t like to admit they have a mental illness they’re not accessing mental health services, and so — they go undiagnosed and untreated.

Mental illness is very unpleasant

Man in mental pain – Image by
Talkspace.com

Mental illness is at best, very unpleasant and at worst, it’s absolute hell. In the western world, it’s a major reason for people having to take time off work. Yet many men still don’t like to admit to their bosses that they’re stressed or that they have a mental illness, they’d rather invent some other excuse.

Working in Human Resources (HR), I saw men of all ages who’d come to us to say they couldn’t tell their boss they felt stressed. They’d ask if we could tell their boss instead, and would we not say it’s for mental health reasons.

I feel quite ashamed about how I’d empathise with females back then, but not the men. While I wouldn’t have said anything to their face, I was judgemental and thought they were weak. Thankfully times have changed and I most certainly have.

Later, as a mental health nurse, I had the honour of working with lots of amazing men experiencing different mental health disorders; from anxiety and depression or OCD to the more severe mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Each had their own humbling story about how they got to where they were, and I shed tears on more than one occasion. However, despite all the care and support in the world, some patients just couldn’t hold on — I know of many male suicides and it never gets any easier to hear.

Some symptoms you might notice

Mental health signs and symptoms can vary, depending on the diagnosis, disorder, circumstances and other factors, and can affect your thoughts, feelings and behaviors so. Being able to recognize and accept the signs that you or someone you know might have a mental health disorder is the first step. Symptoms might include:

Sad and crying – Image by
Leandro de Carvalho at pixabay.com
  1. Extreme mood changes of highs and lows — different from your ‘normal’ mental state and for more than two weeks
  2. Hopelessness, or anhedonia (a loss of pleasure from things that used to provide enjoyment)
  3. Confused thinking, unable to make simple decisions and reduced ability to concentrate
  4. Significant low energy, tiredness, or problems sleeping, constantly waking up early i.e. 3-4 a.m.
  5. Constant restlessness, can’t sit still, fidgeting
  6. Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that other people can’t see).
  7. Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt/shame
  8. Unable to understand and relate to situations and to people – might come across as confused when they try to interact
  9. Inability to cope with activities of daily living i.e. not eating or drinking (non-alcoholic) enough and inability to tend self-care
  10. Displaying excessive hostility, anger, or violence — masking underlying physical or mental disorders
  11. Changes in alcohol or drug intake — they could be self-medicating
  12. Withdrawal from friends and activities
  13. Major changes in sex drive
  14. Suicidal thoughts and ideation

While lots of people have some of these symptoms some of the time, it’s very different to mental health symptoms. With depression for example, your GP would expect you to have a cluster of symptoms, all at the same time and for over 2 weeks.

How to help a man experiencing mental illness

Would you know of any man experiencing mental illness or who feels suicidal? Would you know what to do?

Lone man contemplating
suicide? -Image Pexel.com
  1. You can be there for them, just listening and I know this is hard but — don’t interrupt, listen actively (for more on listening skills see here).
  2. Tell them they will survive, they will stay safe and these thoughts will pass.
  3. Ask if they’re having suicidal thoughts and if so, do they have any intent i.e. do they have a plan and the means — if they do, you need to call their GP or other professional. *Asking if someone is suicidal will not make them go and do it!
  4. Do not give advice if you’re not trained in mental health, you might give the wrong advice. Instead, offer information and signpost them or take them to the appropriate services.
  5. Try not to ask them why they feel depressed/anxious/suicidal — it’s not helpful right now and all you’ll likely get is a list of reasons — think on, what would you do with all this?
  6. Try not to offer platitudes, rather reflect, paraphrase, summarize. You’ll get more if you ask open-ended rather than closed (yes or no) questions. And don’t be scared about silences or filling the gaps.
  7. Let them know they’re not a burden and tell them that you’ll get through this together but — don’t make promises you can’t keep, if you let them down, that might make them feel worse.
  8. Tell them they’re not alone; many others experience mental illness and lead fulfilling lives — they have good jobs and are contributing towards society, they’re married or dating, they have good social lives and they’re able to carry out their activities of daily living.
  9. Explain that some mental illnesses are a result of chemical changes in the brain — it’s not about being weak and failing — at times we live in a hostile, stressful, demanding and right now, a scary world.
  10. Some symptoms of a mental illness mimic physical illnesses at times, such as headaches, generally aches and pains, back and stomach pains so they must see a GP to see if there’s any underlying physical problems that need treatment.
  11. You can’t force someone to access professional care, but you can support them in making an appointment with a mental health professional and you can offer to go with them?
  12. If someone has self-harmed or is considering doing so, take the person to the hospital or call for emergency help.
  13. Don’t make throw away statement such as “You can’t be depressed, you’ve got a nice car, a big house etc.” If a man says he’s feeling anxious or depressed — trust me, he is!
  14. If you think someone is showing signs of psychosis and they’re paranoid, try to remain calm, give them reassurances that they’re safe with you and that no harm will come to them — stay with them — only if it’s safe to do so! Otherwise, be aware, stay safe and call for emergency help immediately.
Little boys and girls need education
– Image by Pexels.com

So, we know what problems men face and how we can help them. What we need to be doing now, is teaching our children, girls and boys, about emotions and how to manage or cope with them. If we can do this, we’ll also reduce the stigma around mental illness.

Let little boys know it’s okay to cry if they’re hurt or sad. Show them pictures of different faces, showing anger, smiles, laughing, shy, happy and sad – get them to point to a face that will explain how they’re feeling right now. Never tell them “big boy’s don’t cry.”

Clipart.com

Would you be able explain to others how to help a man who’s experiencing mental health problems? I’d love to hear your comments and I’m happy to answer any questions.

You may find the following articles useful:

Anxiety in men

men suicide article

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

39 thoughts on “9 reasons why men won’t discuss their mental health”

  1. 40% in the survey said they won’t talk about MH? That is high number. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. I’ve always worked with men and women, never had any gender issues. In some of the wards there were more men, in the other there were more women. Like when I worked in the field of addiction, that was almost exclusively male. In psychosis is was equal and with the elderly is was more women but that is because we used to be a women psychiatry. I think men maybe don’t talk that easy but they send other signals that something is off. ‘Boys don’t cry’ is the worst ‘advice’ ever been given!!!

    1. Thanks for commenting Kacha. That was only a small survey but I’m sure the figures are still really high.
      I’ve always worked with both too, and give me men any day lol. I find them easier to work with but I also loved the challenge working on an all female ward.
      Yeah, I’ve found men tend to display anger or aggression as opposed to saying they’re depressed. I suppose, again, it’s up to us women to show them that a mental illness is not a sign og=f being weak.
      The boys’ dad used to say ‘get up, you big girl’s blouse’ (when they were 5 or 6) and away from the boys, I got so mad at him.
      Caz x

      1. You got me interested in the topic. Would you mind if I would post about the subject too? (one day, don’t know when the muze will strike me!)

      2. I know about the Guest post, just today I was thinking about it! I will write it, I’m sure about that, I just feel like my journey isn’t ‘that far’ behind me to give a nice overview and that is what I want it to be. But I’m coming closer to that point.
        If you would like to write a guest post on my blog, you’re very welcome! x

  2. I’ve always felt sorry for men because of the societal expectations, and even I’m guilty sometimes of having the same expectations of men. The male brain is a huge mystery to me, and not one that I understand. A lot of guys I’ve known were self-absorbed or passive-aggressive or wallowing in constant self-pity (whether justified or not). I’m thinking about all the guys I’ve ever known going back to high school. I totally agree that something needs to be done to change the male-focused “toughness” teaching. It’s ridiculous. Like, I was watching this episode of a TV program, and the college guy was mad, so he got aggressive with his friend on the basketball court, and it wasn’t his friend he was mad at. I really pity men for how they’re not supposed to just say how they feel, or to admit that they have feelings. I’m quite happy that I’m female for that reason (among other reasons). You give good tips for how to handle men in crisis!! I don’t think I’ve ever been in that position, but I hope I’d be helpful!!

    1. Oh crikey, me too Liz. I’ve had male friends saying they’re so confused these days “women want strong but sensitive men!” They want their man to look after them but they don’t want to have to look after their man.
      No wonder they’re confused.
      Oh, I get you about the differnet types of men – I’ve got the t-shirt 😉
      I love the way my sons’ love their girlfriends and vice versa. The girls individually tell me – “He’s the nicest man I’ve ever met.” I used to feel for my younger son when he was late teens – I used to say he was too old for his age (in a nice way). His girlfriends at that time wanted the big strong man and because he was sensitive towards their needs, I think they found him too ‘soft’, if you know what I mean.
      Oh, I think that if ever you were in that position, you’d manage it fine Liz. You’ve got great people skills, Caz x

  3. The world is beginning to accept mental health challenges without stigma. For men it is still what it was. We don’t expect it because a man is viewed as stronger. When they’re normal and human must like everyone in the world. Thanks for sharing. And helping reduce the stigma and make it possible for men to reach out.
    Love, light, and glitter

      1. I think with more awareness and acceptance they will reach out more for it’s safer too, and the messages they’re taught in youth with world perception shift will shift. And that will also absolve some mental health struggles for they’ll be taught healthy ways from younger. Really I think all schools need to teach health, safety and skills to all kids. You don’t need to say what could go wrong but teach the skills to deal with anxiety. Teach grounding methods. Etc etc. Prevention is the best cure… of course it won’t prevent everything but also dealing with things earlier is better too. Anyways I’m rambling.
        Love, light, and glitter

  4. Great post. I’ve brought up two boys on my own so they’ve had a mainly female upbringing. Their dad is very Victorian in his views and when my youngest developed OCD at about nine years old, told me that “he never did it when he was with him” and “it was absolute rubbish and he should just man-up and get over it”. It made me so desperately upset and angry at the time, but he simply wasn’t prepared to step away from his previous views and understand and help this poor little boy. Boarding school for some kids is the worst possible start in life and the boys’ father is testament to this. I put some of his lack of understanding, education and lack of wanting to re-educate himself down to that. Katie

    1. Aha Katie. That “he never did it….” just had me throwing my head back and remembering my boys’ dad doing similar! Mine din’t even have that old schoolboy education – it was that North London Macho thing 😉 and the same, not wanting to educate himself. Us women have a bit more to do lol. Caz x

  5. This is the very reason I blog! To try and open everyone, especially men, up to the idea that mental health needs to be a discussion made often! Awesome blog!

  6. The belief that we have to fight our demons alone is a very damaging one. Women also pick up this belief, but it’s pushed much harder on men. I wonder how many men have given up because they thought that the persistent problems they faced meant they were too “weak” to overcome them when maybe they just needed a little support.

    1. I dare say, it’s not easy for lots of women too. If they weren’t brought up with any emotional intelligence or effective communication skills. Though, research, personal and professional knowledge , it’s more difficult for most most to open up. And yes, the suicide figures are telling. Thanks for commenting, as always. Caz x

  7. This is an excellent post! I think a lot of the reasons why men don’t as often discuss or seek support for mental health can be applied to women too but it seems far more pronounced in men, because of how ingrained the societal notions have been over the year. Macho men, weak women. Way too many stereotypes that need to continue being knocked down. Really good suggestions too, especially number 6 – I think restating what someone’s said and reframing are helpful rather than platitudes and open ended questions or prompts rather than ones where yes/no can be used are also important for getting dialogue flowing and reflections happening.
    Really nicely done with this, Caz.
    Caz xx

    1. Thank you for you supportive comments, as always Caz. I agree the stereotypes in society are definitely a barrier and it’s still something we constantly need to revisit. I do think the younger generation, yourself included, are much more open and accepting toward mental health, emotions, communication etc. I really do think that kids should have lessons in developing emotional intelligence Caz?
      Caz xx

  8. Great post! It is so true that men tends to hide their feelings which may lead them to suicidal attempts if left unresolved… All the suggestions are so helpful specially in my job as a School Nurse designate. I can definitely apply it to my students having personal issues that are usually observed in their performance.

    1. Hi Sam, glad you find the suggestions useful. Of course, we need to do all we can to notice early onset of mental illness. Getting a diagnosis and treatment early on can help stop the descent into a lifetime of mental illness. Caz x

      1. Thanks Caz. I’m doing much better now, thankfully. But when I struggle with intrusive thoughts, I thankfully have some mechanisms to help me get through those times.

      2. That’s so good to hear Brendan. I’m glad to hear you have some mechanisms to help you. I know how difficult it can be and I too have my therapeutic ‘toolbox’ that I dig into whenever I feel the need. 🙂 Caz

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