DEBUNKING THE STIGMA SURROUNDING MEN’S MENTAL HEALTH: HOW TO REACH THE ROAD TO RECOVERY & WORK TOWARDS HEALING
A brief overview
The importance of men’s mental wellbeing has often been overlooked due to the long-existing stigma surrounding men’s mental health. This men’s health month, we want to go deeper into dissecting ideas about masculine roles and gender norms and the way in which this affects the happiness, health and mental stability of men of all ages.
From turning to community support to trying new ways of doing therapy, there are some really beneficial daily practices that could help men struggling with mental illness everywhere. All that’s needed is an honest and open conversation about mental health struggles and how to start the healing and mental health management process.
Why has men’s mental health been overlooked?
For many people, depression, anxiety or any other disorder is seen as a sign of weakness, and this image is reinforced through everyday behaviour in society, as well as the way we bring up men in our society. From a young age, boys face different emotional expectations than young girls do, and they are given limits as to how they should feel and a quota for how much emotional vulnerability is acceptable.
This life-long fear of being vulnerable has created an atmosphere of toxic masculinity and there seems to be a culture where men are brought up to be strong and keep quiet, even when it comes to real difficulties or obvious signs of mental health struggles. The burden of these societal pressures often stop men who are struggling with real issues from accessing the right resources, reduces their opportunity to seek comfort in community support and prevents them from openly talking about these issues to a professional or loved one.
Help & Support
These dysfunctional expectations in our society are impacting our health and wellbeing in really serious and often unnoticed ways. Rising suicide and depression rates have been recorded over the last few years and, not only are these pressures weighing on our population’s mental health, but these pressures are also affecting the physical health of men across the globe. For example, there has been an increasing amount of research that points towards a link between high blood pressure and anxiety – which can cause very real and very serious health risks.
As a society, it is our responsibility to address and eliminate this stigma altogether. Both men and women alike need the space to connect with their inner emotions every day and start implementing small practices in their daily lives that will help them achieve a more mindful outlook and better balanced when it comes to their mental health.
So, what can we do as a society to encourage healthy ways to heal and give men access to the support they need – without judgement, fear or any type apprehension?
Men’s mental health organizations
Mental health organizations are one of the best resources for men facing mental health struggles. By donating to these organizations or simply recommending one of them to a friend facing mental health struggles, we can encourage the men in our society to access help when they need it – judgement-free.
These organizations allow men to reach out and connect with other men in the same circumstance who are facing similar struggles. Below are some of the most accessible sites that provide support and give men the right tools to take action and begin the healing process:
Focusing on wellbeing and mind maintenance
Over the years, research has uncovered a clear relationship between lifestyle behaviours and mental health, and it’s a lot stronger than most people think. Harmful lifestyle behaviours – such as excessive eating, alcohol addiction or sleep deprivation – have a strong correlation to the development and exacerbation of depression.
This means that encouraging healing lifestyle habits every day, while slowly eliminating the existing stigma surrounding mental health, are two of the most immediate ways to help men struggling with mental health and anxiety to live a happy, balanced life while getting the help they need.
Below are the 5 most important lifestyle behaviours for maintaining good mental balance:
1. Essential exercise
The most important lifestyle behaviour that most researchers focus on is the relationship between exercise and depression.
According to Mayo Clinic, a strong exercise routine and daily workout can relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety tenfold by releasing good endorphins, inspiring social interaction and helping men gain confidence in themselves and their physical ability.
Explore more: 1 PIECE OF EQUIPMENT. 10 MOVES. ALL THE SWEAT
2. Turning to community
Although friends and family may not understand exactly what someone facing mental illness is feeling, they are still an unbelievably necessary support system and, for most men, these daily social interactions with the most important people in their lives are vital. Friends and family are a key part of the health and mental wellness journey.
They also play a large part in helping men battling mental illness to start living a more meaningful life by giving them the comfort of knowing that there are people standing behind them as they begin the process of learning to manage their mental health in their own time.
3. Talking to a therapist
Talking to a therapist weekly (or even daily) can make a world of difference. A licensed professional knows how to tackle these types of problems and manage anxiety, stress or symptoms of depression in ways that most of us are not able to think of on our own.
Trying therapy is not just about opening up and sharing with another person, but it’s also about developing helpful, life-long strategies that can better equip those living with anxiety or depression to deal with these struggles and live a happy, healthy life at the same time.
Some men may even want to try online therapy – it’s easy, more accessible and lets anyone connect to a source of support without leaving the comfort of their home.
4. Getting enough sleep
Getting enough sleep can single-handedly change the way anyone approaches the day. Fatigue from sleep deprivation can worsen the symptoms of depression, negatively impact your mood and cause anger or impulsivity. A lack of sleep also makes controlling and working through emotional reactions much more difficult. Sleep deprivation alters some parts of the brain over long periods of time, which means it prevents your brain from forming the right pathways that it needs to perform and function for the next day.
Strategies for getting enough sleep include turning off your TV and phone early in the evening, avoiding mind-altering substances like alcohol or addictive substances like nicotine and keeping the same sleep schedule on weeknights. These small changes could help develop a more consistent sleep schedule and drastically improve your quality of life.
Explore more: THE ACT OF SAVOURING: HOW TO LIVE A MORE MEANINGFUL LIFE
5. Healthy eating
There is a strong link between diet and mental health. While healthier foods and proper nutrition increase energy, diets high in refined sugar and fats can be harmful to the brain and magnify the symptoms of mood disorders. It’s quite a complicated process but, essentially, the mood mediator – a neurotransmitter called Serotonin – is produced in the digestive tract.
Unhealthy foods can cause inflammation and take the place of the good nutrients which your body needs for proper functioning and energy. While it’s not an all-in-one cure, healthy eating can really bring everyone a step closer to feeling better and shrugging off the lethargy. It will also allow the body to better produce the chemical it needs to maintain a healthy internal balance.
Living an active, healthy life can be difficult when you are silently struggling with your mental health. At WellBe&Co, we want everyone to be as healthy and happy as possible. That’s why we want to encourage all our readers to change their outlook and start searching for ways that they can help themselves, their friends or their family members who may be struggling with mental illness or mood disorders to get the help they need.
It’s clear that these desired, traditional ‘masculine’ traits have set up a generation of men who do not feel they are allowed to have a connection to their inner feelings or mental wellbeing, and, here at WellBe&Co, we don’t want to overlook this. We believe that masculine-related norms are a barrier to men’s health and mental wellbeing and that achieving mental balance and stability is vital for everyone who is currently battling with stress, anxiety depression or any other disorder.
It’s important to reach out to friends and family, as well as look inwards and use these 5 helpful coping habits to make small changes in your lifestyle every day. Most of all, we hope everyone finds the love and support they need to ask for help. We wish you all a safe, healthy and love-filled men’s health month.