Mental illness is an umbrella term for many health conditions that affect the thought process of a person and bring about emotional and behavioural problems. Contrary to popular belief, mental illness is a common condition and is usually treatable with most patients being able to function normally in their daily lives after treatment. Unfortunately, strong social stigma and negative perception of mental illness not only discourages patients from seeking treatment but may also worsen their condition. Although the female gender has a higher prevalence of mental illnesses in general, males are less likely to seek treatment and are often more subjected to stigmatization and discrimination from society.
Depression is more commonly diagnosed in women while men, on the other hand, are more prone to suffer from substance abuse and antisocial personality disorders. Although relatively less prevalent, around 6 million males in the U.S. suffer from depression yearly and many of these cases remain undiagnosed due to the stigma associated with seeking help for such symptoms. Schizophrenia is commonly seen in men with a 1.4 times higher frequency than in females. Although eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are less common in men and account for only 10% of total cases, men are much less likely to get professional help for such problems. Men are also more likely to suffer from alcohol or drug dependency which may be due to or later on lead to other psychological disorders. Unfortunately underreporting of mental illnesses in men has led to suicide becoming the 7th leading cause of death among men with the highest rate of suicide seen in Caucasian men above 85 years of age. These numbers continue to increase with approximately two-thirds of suicides worldwide reported to be men. Many factors account for these alarming statistics such as genetic predisposition, mood disorders, unemployment, and alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, even today, mental illnesses are met with ignorance and fear in our societies especially in cases of male patients. Many men still remain in denial about their symptoms or believe seeking help to be a sign of “weakness”. A study conducted by the mental health foundation showed a decreased predisposition of males towards seeking help from professionals or disclosing their problems to family and friends as compared to females. This toxic masculinity is developed at a young age when men are taught to repress their feelings which leads to increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions as well as poor coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug dependency.
The first step towards good mental health for men is to address these problems at an early age along with the acceptance of mental illnesses at a community level. This can be achieved by education, raising awareness regarding mental health taboos, and having conversations that normalize help-seeking behaviour and healthy coping mechanisms.
by The Dr.