June is Men’s Health Month, but it would be negligent to focus on men’s physical without considering mental health. Millions of Americans experience mental illness, which affects how people cope with life. Although mental health issues don’t discriminate based on gender, it’s often overlooked as an integral part of men’s overall health.
The Stigma of Mental Health
Unfortunately, mental health is a topic that is often stigmatized in our society, causing people to associate it with shame. But there’s no reason to be ashamed. We wouldn’t blame someone who has another disease, so why do we place stigma and blame on mental health issues in the brain? Mental illness matters as much as any disease, and it can take one’s life as easily as any other.
In many cases, the stigma is more significant for men. For too long, society has expected men to “man up” and repress and bury emotions rather than address them. Boys are taught that “men don’t cry” and need to internalize their feelings and keep their emotions in check.
Shaming men for displaying their emotions deprives them of a vital outlet for treating their mental health, an essential component for overall health. For example, depression can lead to suicidal ideations and, if untreated, suicidal attempts.
Men’s Mental Health and the Impact of COVID-19
There’s no question that the COVID pandemic has affected the mental health of both men and women. However, given that men are statistically less likely to seek help or support for mental health issues or concerns, a recent survey focused on the pandemic’s bearing on men’s mental health. Key findings include:
- Three in five men (59 percent) feel COVID-19 has had a more significant negative impact on their mental health than the 2008 recession.
- Sixty-six percent of men say they rarely talk about the impact COVID-19 has had on their mental health.
- Seventy-seven percent of men report their stress level has increased as a result of COVID-19.
- Fifty-nine percent of men have felt isolated during the pandemic.
- Nearly half (45 percent) of men say their emotional/mental health has worsened during the pandemic.
Men and Depression
Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness. A mood disorder, depression impacts between 15 and 20 percent of people, with women more often diagnosed. Depression can be debilitating, and it can cause several serious complications, affecting both mental and physical health. People experiencing depression are also at a higher risk for suicide.
Because men seek treatment for mental illnesses, such as depression, less often, they succumb to mental illness at a starkly higher rate than women. While women are two times more likely than men to experience depression, suicide rates are significantly higher for men.
Depression affects both men and women, but studies have shown that the symptoms of depression can be different. For example, depression may manifest as anger, irritability, or aggression in males, while in many women, it’s expressed as an overwhelming sadness.
The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health
The mind and the body are connected. Stress and anxiety can take a toll on a person’s physical health, lowering the immune system, leading to more frequent sickness, and an inability to cope.
Depression can also increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, pain, and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers continue to explore whether physiological changes seen in depression may play a role in increasing the risk of other physical illnesses. Scientists have found that depression changes the way several different systems in the body function that could have an impact on physical health, including:
- Increased inflammation
- Changes in the control of heart rate and blood circulation
- Abnormalities in stress hormones
- Metabolic changes such as those seen in people at risk for diabetes
It’s essential to make your health a priority. An annual checkup can prevent many vital issues; even save your life!
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in America. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 41 will die from prostate cancer. In the United States, it’s estimated there will be 248,530 new cases of prostate cancer and 34,130 deaths from prostate cancer in 2021.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men (and women) in the US. In 2017, almost 25 percent of male deaths in the US were due to heart disease. Half of the men who die suddenly from coronary heart disease experienced no previous symptoms.
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. From 2015-2018, nearly 52 percent of men 20 years and older measured with high blood pressure and took antihypertensive medication.
Being overweight can affect your health in various ways. Close to 41 percent of men 20 years and older are obese. Discussing your options with a physician is important in ensuring your approach to weight loss is healthy.
Fortunately, the tide is slowly changing when it comes to men’s mental health. Over the past few years, several male celebrities, including Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, Olympian Michael Phelps, and pop star Shawn Mendes have shared their struggles with mental illness. Hopefully, as more men, especially those in the public eye, speak out about their experiences with mental health challenges, others will realize they’re not alone.
Mental illness isn’t a weakness or something that will get better if you just “buck up.” No amount of willpower will cure it, and it won’t go away on its own. Untreated mental illness can have serious consequences. Mental illness is treatable.
Finding a local therapist through Eagle Valley Behavioral Health is an important step in getting a diagnosis and determining a treatment plan. Financial assistance resources like Olivia’s Fund are also available to those who live or work in Eagle County and cannot afford treatment.
About Emergency Help
Suicide is often associated with depression. If you are concerned that someone you love may hurt themselves or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.