Get help nowCall or Text 988
Men’s Mental Health Month
June is not only Men’s Mental Health Month, but on June 18th we recognized the dad’s in our lives in honor of Father’s Day. I remember as a child I viewed my dad as a super hero; brave, strong, and capable of anything. As I grew older I realized that while he may be the greatest father in the world, he was only human.
As a society we tend to put an unfair expectation on men by always pressuring them to be tough, strong, and stoic. Even as young boys, they are treated differently when they are sick or injured. Boys grow up hearing walk it off and boys don’t cry. Society teaches men from the beginning that showing emotion is for women and asking for help is for the weak. It’s really no wonder that when men struggle with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, they are much less likely than women to reach out for help.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four adults in the United States will be affected by a mental health condition each year. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) said in 2014 that 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults. It is believed that at any point in time, three to five percent of adults suffer from major depression (7).
While depression is more common among women, significantly more men are dying by suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the two highest risk groups for suicide are males 75 and older, and males ages 45-64 (4). Nearly 90 percent of those who take their own life are struggling with a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or depression at the time of their death. Most of the time, these conditions are either untreated or undiagnosed completely. We recognize that men often don’t acknowledge feelings of sadness and hopelessness; they are more likely to hide these feelings all together or mask them with other behaviors. Males often show depressive symptoms differently than females. For example, it’s common for men to become irritable, aggressive, work compulsively, isolate themselves from friends and family, drink more than normal, and engage in high risk activities (3).
The intense emotional pain experienced when depressed can distort one’s thinking making it harder to see possible solutions to problems or to connect with those who can offer support. Suicide might seem like the only way to make the pain stop. It’s not that there aren’t other ways to get relief from depression, but rather that it’s hard to see them when caught in the grips of depression (3). However, depression is highly treatable with options such as talk-therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, and a balanced diet. It’s important to understand that treatment for each person will look different.
When we take a step back and look at the data, it is clear that we need to change the way we shame men for experiencing emotions. Life is not always easy and everybody will struggle at some point. We need to remove the stigma particularly around males asking for help with mental health conditions. We need to teach our sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers that it takes courage and strength to ask for help. After all, what can be more masculine than that?
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-TALK (8255) or text START to 741-7417.
Jill Hamilton, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Jill Hamilton has been the Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation since 2014. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Speech Communication Minor from The University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since working at the foundation, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition and The Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, Nebraska LOSS Advisory Committee, The Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, is Chair of the Nebraska LOSS Teams Conference Planning Committee, and serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Metro Area LOSS Team.