Focusing on Men’s Mental Health This “Movember”
You may have noticed some of the men in your life celebrating Movember or “no shave November,” an event that seeks to spread awareness of men’s health concerns like prostate cancer and testicular cancer, encouraging early screening and preventative care.
But what you may not know is that the event, hosted by the Movember foundation, also hopes to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues. In particular, men are far more likely than women to die by suicide, with one male suicide taking place every minute worldwide and male casualties accounting for 69 percent of all suicides.
In the US, 75 percent of all suicides are by men, making them almost four times more likely to die of suicide than women. This problem is worst in rural areas, as well as among certain demographics: veterans and gay men are at higher risk, and Caucasian men older than 85 have the highest rate overall, four times larger than that of the rest of the population.
The reasons for this are complex, but are thought to include the destructive influence of toxic masculinity and the differing social roles ascribed to women and men. Because of social stigma and norms, men may feel as if they are not “supposed” to cry or to have tender feelings, or to have trouble coping with their emotions.
This means that they may not be comfortable expressing their feelings of sadness or depression even with close friends or loved ones, as well as less comfortable reaching out for help or therapy. Of the nine percent of men who have daily feelings of depression or anxiety, only one in four have ever spoken to a mental health professional.
Depression in men may also be less recognized by loved ones and mental health professionals alike because it can look different than depression usually does in women—as opposed to crying often or showing sadness, men may show irritability, anger, hostility, and unusual risk-taking or escapist behaviors.
This means that signs of depression and suicidality are less likely to be recognized in men. This problem is only compounded by the fact that men are more likely than women to use highly lethal methods like hanging or firearms, meaning that a suicide attempt is more likely to be fatal.
Men also may fear more pressure than women to be the successful “breadwinner” or “protector,” feeling as if their worth is tied to their capabilities or earnings and thus potentially having an intensely negative impact response to job loss.
This problem has been exacerbated both by the pandemic’s devastating effect on the economy and the decline of traditional occupations like mining that offered men more dependable ways to hold a job and make a decent living. Physical causes unique to men like low testosterone levels can also sometimes contribute to male depression.
So, what can we take away from all this? For one thing, we can all make an effort to pay more attention to the emotional health of the men/other men in our lives, and to let them know that it is ok to experience negative, vulnerable emotions and to express those feelings openly, whether by confiding in close friends or making the decision to seek mental health treatment.
Movember’s website has some tips for starting meaningful conversations with a man who seems to be struggling, and you should also not be afraid to ask directly whether a man is considering suicide if you have observed worrisome signs in someone you love.
While the discussion may be uncomfortable, you are unlikely to put the idea in someone’s head by bringing it up, and in fact, end up saving a life. To learn more about recognizing and dealing with someone who may be suicidal, you can check out our guide here, and, if you are ever in or dealing with someone who is in an acute suicidal crisis, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Finally, it’s also important to be aware of the fact that men are also more likely than women to struggle with substance abuse, being three times as likely to become alcoholics than women, and more likely to use as well as to die from illegal drugs. If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s substance abuse, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Reco Institute today. Our sober living options can provide a safe, structured environment and inspiring community that can help you lay the groundwork for a lasting sobriety, while our associated intensive treatment program can address both problems with substances and underlying mental health concerns that may give rise to them. To learn more, call us today at at 844-960-3156.