Now more than ever, mental health is in the news. Perhaps triggered by the pandemic, more people are openly discussing issues such as depression, anxiety, phobias and eating disorders. Men, even more than women, often suffer in silence and it has a lot to do with the different ways boys and girls are brought up.
One of the most significant social stereotypes is that boys are in some way stronger or tougher than girls.1 Yet little girls grow up to be women who have to be tough enough to go through childbirth. This stereotype of masculine strength creates boys who grow into men who suppress their feelings. In other words, it has been engrained in them that feeling vulnerable is a sign of weakness and discussing their anxiety or depression is “unmanly.” Men need to be freed of the stigma attached to their feelings of imperfection, loneliness and helplessness—because all these so-called negative thoughts are part of being human and living through the various stages of life, regardless of gender. Simply feeling able to confide in a therapist, friend or any trusted person is a big step towards mental health.
Research supports the fact that men who cannot speak openly about their emotions may be less likely to recognize mental health issues.2 And, if they don’t recognize they are going through some kind of crisis, they are not going to seek help. Instead, they commonly turn to coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol to excess, doing drugs or acting overly aggressive. Some other mental health symptoms in men include unexplained anger, irritability, frustration, trouble concentrating, persistent feelings of worry, engaging in high-risk activities, unusual behavior that impedes daily functions and thoughts of suicide.3
In fact, in England, the suicide rate is three times higher in men than in women.4 In North America, the rate is four times higher with men than women.5 Those contemplating suicide often believe no one feels the way they do. “You are not alone”— This statement alone can help someone who is suffering through a mental health crisis, because the knowledge that a specific feeling is not unique, makes it somewhat more acceptable as part of society at large.
Risk factors for mental health issues with men include social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, military-related trauma, genetic predisposition, mood disorders and health challenges specific to aging in those 85 and older.6
In their 2018 report, the World Health Organization emphasized that cultural stigma surrounding mental health was one of the chief obstacles to people admitting that they were struggling and seeking help, and this was especially pronounced in men.7 Because so many men have been brought up to think of mental health as not concrete, the subject has become known by various media as a “silent epidemic” and a “sleeper issue that has crept into the minds of millions.”8
The fact that men’s mental health is trending in the news gives hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. New fathers and mothers can lead the way by treating boys and girls more equitably, by nurturing and encouraging both genders to articulate both thoughts and feelings, and to be generous and kind to as many as possible. It’s never too early to guide a child into living as an active participant in the Global Wellness Community.
Since June 19 is Father’s Day and June is Men’s Health Awareness month, Nikken is celebrating fathers and men’s health with a self-care pack that empowers men with Active Wellness. Our Father’s Day Pack, available June 1 through June 30, targets the immune system and gut health with one bottle of Kenzen® Immunity and one bottle of Kenzen Lactoferrin® 2.0. You also receive a bonus bottle of Kenzen® Mega Daily 4 for men at no cost, an added retail value of $53 US / $65 CA.