One in four people will suffer a mental health problem at some point in their life yet mental health is still a taboo subject and discrimination and stigma still exist.
Today’s post will explore why men find it difficult to talk about mental health. In doing this I have spoken to a number of men on social media and also have looked at some blogs on a campaign called time to change their website is www.time-to–change.org.uk. It is England’s biggest programme which was set up to challenge mental health stigma. I myself am a champion for them and have been involved in a number of events which they do. The campaign is backed by celebrities such as Ruby Wax, Frank Bruno, and Stephen Fry. To date 92798 people have pledged to end stigma, including myself.
So why do men find it difficult to talk about mental health, during my findings the most common reason was men said they are perceived to be strong, dependable and tough and also the breadwinners. Below are a number of quotes from men on social media groups and from the time to change website, on why they find it difficult to talk about mental health.
“Male ego, fear of losing employment”
“People tend to distance themselves from you”
“When I told a friend I had depression they said what you have got to be depressed about, go and get drunk”
“As an African Caribbean man there is a huge problem and stigma and this stem from upbringing. There is a fear of rejection”
“If a man has a mental health issue it is seen as a sign of weakness”
“I felt ashamed to take pills as I felt I was being weak”
“Men must be men and maintain a stiff upper lip”
Another man said that when he goes to his doctor about his physical health the doctor always refers to his mental health and asks him if he is feeling stable. He told me this puts him off going to his gp.
Interestingly, celebrity sufferers are often hailed as heroes, because of their celebrity status. Whereas ordinary citizens are shunned, taunted and often ostracized. When Frank Bruno the boxer opened up about his bipolar disorder he quoted that his bipolar was “His biggest fight yet”.
Statistics show that there is a higher suicide rate among men and they are more like to use drugs or alcohol to self medicate. Also they are more likely to get into trouble with the law and end up in prison. This is often because they bottle their emotions up and are scared to share them.
By looking at the quotes I have used you can see that there is a strong emphasis on men feeling the need to look strong and not weak. Many do not open up about their mental health for fear of losing their employment or being seen as scary monsters that is another quote I have read. Also in certain cultures there is a big stigma and mental health is not spoken about.
Recognizing you need help is a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. It is important to realize that if people make an unhelpful response this reflects more on the persons perception and lack of knowledge and some people are just pure ignorant.
Seeking help is important and so is speaking out especially among men as only then can stigma be reduced, and people educated, everybody should be treated as an equal.
Claudette is a passionate campaigner and activist for mental health stigma and domestic abuse. She believes that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their disability or gender. She has diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, endometriosis, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. Claudette has a certificate in Management studies. Her interests include beauty, makeup, animals politics, current affairs and social networking.
You can follow Claudette on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
3 thoughts on “The Stigma Surrounding Men’s Mental Health”
Very well written Claudette and so true.
I’m a man who believes in being very open about his mental illness. I wish I could say that it’s always gone well, but sadly not. I feel that sharing my story helps others and I hope that some day no one is ever ashamed of having a mental illness.
Thank you for writing about men and depression. I am a man who suffered from a major depressive episode. Once I had created a plan of how I would take my own life, thought constantly throughout the day about taking my life, and even started to dream about it at night, I knew it was time to seek help. I took five weeks off from my job (public school administrator) and checked myself into a partial hospitalization program.
One of the best resources I had found was a men’s group for depression. I trusted the group immediately, knowing that they had all been through what I had been through. I’m two years out from the episode and have been feeling great, yet continue to join the group twice a month. I can check in with how I’ve been feeling and also support other men.
I have now been trained by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to give anti-stigma talks. I have also shared my story and blog at allevin18.wordpress.com. You can also find me on Twitter @allevin18. Together, as we share our stories and educate the public, perhaps we can all put a dent in the stigma around mental illness.