Understanding and Challenging the Stigma.
We are all familiar with how mental health significantly influences our overall well-being, shaping our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It is important to recognize that mental health issues do not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or background, making them prevalent and capable of affecting anyone. According to NHS England, approximately 1 in 4 individuals will encounter a mental illness during their lifetime. (1)
While many of us experience mental health problems, it is important to note differences in how men and women navigate and respond to these challenges. In particular, men are more likely to display hesitancy in seeking professional help. Tragically, this reluctance may be a factor in the higher rate of suicide among men, especially those between aged 15 to 49 years. (2)
What are the Stigmas?
Certain individuals are less likely to seek help or access appropriate care for their mental health issues because of the stigma surrounding them. Stigma is the negative perception or treatment of a person or group based on a characteristic or attribute that society does not approve of. (3) This is especially true for men, who face multiple barriers and challenges regarding their mental health. This stigma can have harmful effects on the lives of men with mental health problems.
Some social circles or peers may discourage open discussions about emotions or mental health, making it challenging for men to feel comfortable seeking support. Peer pressure to conform to stereotypes of invulnerability and self-reliance creates a stigma, preventing them from expressing their emotions openly.
Stigma in Society and Media:
The portrayal of men in the media, movies, and even advertisements can reinforce harmful stereotypes. The "tough guy" image reinforces the notion that men should be self-reliant and emotionally impenetrable. These stereotypes undermine the diverse emotional spectrum of men and contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health support.
In the workplace, men might fear acknowledging mental health challenges that could jeopardise their careers. The pressure to excel, combined with the notion that showing vulnerability is a weakness, creates a toxic cocktail that suppresses honest conversations about mental well-being in the workplace.
Cultural and Societal Norms:
Cultural norms play a significant role in shaping attitudes towards mental health. In some societies, seeking help for mental health issues is perceived as a personal failing, making men reluctant to share their struggles openly. This cultural barrier can severely affect men's mental health and overall well-being.
Further Impacts of Stigma:
The reluctance of men to seek mental health support has far-reaching consequences, not only for the individuals themselves but also for their families and friends. Untreated mental health issues can lead to strained relationships and reduced productivity.
Moreover, emotional suppression can hinder emotional intelligence and self-awareness, making it challenging for men to process and express their feelings openly and effectively. This can result in severe outcomes such as psychological issues, self-harm, or even suicide.
It is important to address the misconceptions surrounding counselling, particularly among men. Some may believe counselling is only for the weak or those with severe mental illness. Additionally, the predominance of female representation in the mental health field may deter men from seeking counselling.
Addressing the stigma of men's mental health
On a personal level and as a counsellor, I believe addressing the stigma surrounding men's mental health is crucial. In order to tackle this issue and raise awareness, we can take certain measures, which are highlighted below.
Education and Awareness:
I would like to see a more concerted effort to drive more mental health education in our schools. I would like to see education that dispels myths and stereotypes on men’s mental health.
Safe Spaces and Support:
Creating more awareness of the services available to men, such as helplines and support groups. To see more investment, making them more available and accessible. Creating more safe spaces where men can discuss their emotions in a non-judgemental environment. Additionally, peer support networks can reduce feelings of isolation and provide validation.
Encourage more representation of male counsellors, creating an inclusive environment where men feel more at ease seeking help. More male mental health professionals, counsellors, and therapists can create a sense of comfort and understanding for men seeking help.
Introduce programs and training that increase the awareness and understanding within the workplace that looks to reduce the stigma associated with men’s mental health.
Promote a responsible and authentic representation of men and their mental health struggles to dispel stereotypes and present a more genuine perspective. Encourage more influential figures, role models, and celebrities to openly discuss their mental health journeys. Their stories can inspire others to seek help and break the silence surrounding men's mental health.
Breaking down the stigma of men's mental health requires a collective effort that will take time. However, By challenging stigmas, fostering empathy, and encouraging open discussions, we can empower men to prioritise their emotional journeys without fear or shame.
It's important to acknowledge that societal stigmas often hinder emotional wellness. Many men hesitate to seek help due to the belief that expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. I want you to know that your emotions are valid, and seeking support is an act of courage, not weakness.
Thank you for reading.
If you're currently seeking help and support, I encourage you to use the links below to reach out to these organisations. However, if you're seeking professional support or wish to explore further information regarding my approach to men's mental health, please feel free to contact me at www.growth-counselling.com