As a health care professional, I’m happy to see the significant strides our community has made to understand the issues surrounding mental health. However, one area where we are still falling short is men’s mental health.
Men often encounter unique challenges when it comes to discussing their struggles and their willingness to seek help. If we want to improve the mental health wellbeing and support for all, then it’s critical we include men’s mental health in the discussion.
Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and stress affect men just as much as women, but historically, men are less likely to seek treatment. Many men have been conditioned to “man up” and not show vulnerability and emotional expression. As a result, many men suffer in silence and avoid seeking the help they need.
It’s time for this to end.
We need to promote open conversations and encourage the men in our lives and in the community as a whole to talk more about their feelings, concerns and experiences without fear of judgment or ridicule. Asking for help is a sign of self-awareness and strength, not a sign of weakness.
Education can play a vital role in addressing the stigma. Schools and workplaces should provide comprehensive mental health education that includes discussions about men’s mental health, signs to watch for, symptoms of common disorders and available resources.
One such resource is Mental Health First Aid (mentalhealthfirstaid.org), a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance use issues. By increasing awareness and knowledge, we can break down misconceptions and provide individuals with the tools to support themselves and others. As Mental Health First Aiders, individuals know the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use concern and help connect them to appropriate care.
Creating safe spaces for men to share their mental health struggles is another crucial step.
Southwest Family Medicine and Southwest Behavioral & Health Services offer a variety of programs and services in environments where men can connect with others facing similar challenges. These are safe places where individuals can express themselves openly, find validation, and receive support and advice from peers who understand their experiences.
In addition to receiving support and encouragement from peers, it’s important to encourage and discuss the significance of seeking professional help. Mental health professionals can provide guidance, resources and treatment for mental health issues which can lead to early intervention, better coping strategies, and improved overall wellbeing.
It is also critical that men recognize and play a leading role in promoting and destigmatizing these important mental health conversations. If they are engaged in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that address their unique mental health needs, we can ensure that the outcomes will be impactful and effective.
I’m proud to play a part in addressing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health but it requires a collective effort. Government agencies, health care providers, employers, educators, families and literally everyone in the community has a role to play in creating an environment that supports men’s mental well-being. Join me by encouraging open discussions, providing access to education and resources, and fostering a culture of acceptance. Together, we can empower men to prioritize their mental health, seek help when needed, and ultimately lead happier and healthier lives.
Greg Choy is director of nursing for Southwest Family Medicine, a division of Southwest Behavioral & Health Services, and works with the Mesa outpatient facility. To learn more about mental health first aid classes, find a mental health professional or for more information about SB&H programs and services, visit sbhservices.org.