Every year in America, June is marked as Men’s Health Month in order to focus on the health and well-being of the male population. The observance of this month, which is now in its 23rd year, is marked by outreach programs, health fairs, media campaigns and screenings by various institutions including government agencies. This opportunity is used by health care providers, lawmakers, mass media and individuals to urge young boys and men to seek timely treatment for diseases or injuries and undergo regular medical examinations.
Most men tend to restrict their health concerns to physical well-being, such as a preventive examination for prostate cancer or cardiovascular disease. However, men seldom realize that they have a significantly higher likelihood of suffering from a mental disorder such as depression than prostate cancer, in spite of it being the most common cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) among men in the United States.
Men are experiencing what is now being referred to as a silent crisis. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over six million American men experience depression every year. Compared to women, men are unlikely to identify and accept depressive symptoms. Men suffering from depression tend to exhibit irritable or aggressive behavior, drink excessively and overwork themselves to conceal their symptoms from friends and family.
Why are men unwilling to seek treatment?
Men are usually brought up with traditional and deep-rooted beliefs regarding masculinity, which leads them to think of depression or other mental disorders as a sign of weakness or failure. This may explain their unwillingness to seek treatment for mental health issues since it may project them as having no control over their emotions. Another possible reason for their reluctance to seek treatment is that professional mental health services may not be fully suited to men’s needs, particularly in case of men belonging to minority communities.
All this does not take away from the seriousness of mental health issues plaguing the male population. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men have a nearly four times higher suicide rate than women, making up almost 78 percent of all suicides in the United States. Past research also confirms that men demonstrate a “shockingly high rate of death by suicide” than women and suffer from a “silent epidemic”. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of male deaths, and the incidence is particularly higher among men residing in smaller towns and rural areas. A significant loss of employment in traditionally male-dominated industries such as manufacturing, forestry and fisheries has made men in specific regions vulnerable to the risk of suicide.
Men also suffer from significantly higher substance abuse rates than women, possibly due to their habit of finding a coping mechanism in stressful situations such as unemployment and divorce. The socio-legal outcomes of divorce, such as custody battles for children and fighting for visitation rights, may lead to feelings of despair and anguish among many men. The bitter experiences of such situations may make them feel isolated and detached. They may start abusing substances to fill the void and numb the emotional pain.
Risk of suicide and substance abuse tends to be higher among certain sub-categories of men, including veterans, Native Americans and gay men. A common problem faced by such groups of men is the strong feelings of disaffection and seclusion, which may emanate from the real or perceived non-acceptance by the conventional society.
Men’s health is as much a socio-economic issue as a well-being issue
Impact of socio-economic issues such as unemployment and family discord need to be taken into account for health interventions targeted at men. Mental health interventions should include more options which respond specifically to requirements of the male population. Treatment methods should be customized according to men’s unique needs taking into account the reluctance they show in enrolling for a recovery program. There also needs to be a significant cultural shift in the way men perceive depression and other mental health disorders by accepting them as medical conditions and not as signs of weakness or failure.
Mental illness should be treated at par with physical illness as both can cause drastic changes to life. If you or someone you know is suffering from any mental health disorders, contact the California Mental Health Helpline for guidance on various mental health facilities in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our specialists to get advice on the best mental health rehabilitation centers in California where the focus is on holistic healing.