This article was originally published by with Men’s Health and has been edited by Aloha Behavioral Consultants.
Our mental health is inseparable from our physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their mental struggles. As Mental Health Awareness Month continues, we can change these stigmas.
Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, “Man up,” as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
Or worse: we nonchalantly respond, “Well, that sucks,” then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression on a daily basis. That’s more than 6 million men. Even if we understand what depression feels like, we rarely admit that’s the culprit. We lie and say we’re tired or just cranky. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. (Men’s Health Style and Grooming Editor Louis Baragona eloquently and touchingly shared his battle with bulimia.) We retreat from friends and instead drown sorrows in numbing substances. One out of every five men will develop an alcohol dependency during his life.
Male suicide is rising at such an alarming rate that it’s been classified as a “silent epidemic.” It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males. That’s a staggering statistic. Drill down into the numbers and suicide is the second most common cause of death for every age group for men 10 through 39.
Our mental problems are literally killing us. And that has to stop.
This macho attitude of stuffing your feelings down, or ignoring them, is antiquated and downright dangerous.
It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it.
What’s not okay is suffering in silence.
A few courageous men have led the charge, exposing their plights to the rest of us. Singer Zayn Malik openly discussed his struggle with anxiety and his battle with an eating disorder. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love penned an op-ed entitled “Everyone Is Going Through Something,” chronicling his panic attacks.
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently revealed his battle with depression after his mother attempted suicide when he was a teenager, his words struck a chord with us:
“[It] took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
Together, our voices can fight the stigma that real men don’t talk about their troubles. In doing so, we can usher in a positive conversation to replace the longstanding, detrimental silence.
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).