After the elementary school shootings in Newtown, President Obama speaks to the nation with tears in his eyes. It was a remarkable sign of deep sympathy and empathy for precious lives shattered.
A professional rookie football player, Michael Sam, one of the first to come out as gay, tearfully announces his retirement because of the violence of the sport and upsetting locker room behavior.
In many cultures, sensitivity shown by men is revered. But in our own, there is a stigma associated with being empathetic, deferential or simply different. It’s especially troubling, yet important, when public figures highlight the problem.
In fact, from an early age, males have been expected to be in control of their feelings, holding their emotions in, rather than wearing them on their sleeves. Society has told them to be strong – to “shake it off.” Don’t rely on anyone else. Don’t even ask for directions! Stereotyping has put tremendous pressure on men and created a challenge to men’s mental health services.
So Why the Increase in Suicide and Other Men’s Mental Health Issues?
There are a number of theories regarding the perceptible rise in depression, suicide and other mental health problems among men. The one that seems be most intertwined with male stereotypes revolves around the notion that men are expected to be the primary family breadwinners. While women’s rights and equality in the workplace are on the rise, and the new generation is much more accepting, this trend may not be as welcome to men as one would think. Coincidentally, the disappearance of many male-dominated jobs, including manufacturing, mining, forestry and commercial fishing, and resulting unemployment, has also taken its toll on the male population.
FACT: Black, Hispanic and Asian men are the least likely to seek out mental health services.
Steps Men Must Take to Cope with Society’s Expectations
Because men tend to suppress their feelings, and may not seek out mental health services for a variety of illnesses, they internalize their feelings. This can lead to depression and other related conditions, and even suicide, in what mental health professionals call the “silent crisis.” They may turn to drugs or a more accepted and accessible form of consolation – alcohol. At this point they may require dual-diagnosis treatment for mental illness and addiction.
FACT: 75% of successful suicide victims in the U.S. are men.
Fortunately, there are strategies for neutralizing the negative mental health effects of male stereotyping, including the following:
- Recognizing that there is a problem. Many men simply will not admit to a problem, because it makes them feel weak and defective. Mental illness and associated treatment for dual diagnosis is like treating any disease: diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
- Finding someone who will listen. Unlike women, men are not necessarily wired to confide in others. A best bud may not always be the best confidant. It may just be someone who is a good listener, but not involved in the life of the man seeking help.
- Understanding that the perception men’s role – and behavior – in society is changing. The #metoo movement has helped women regain some footing lost over the years. While it may come a little slower for men, times are changing.
- Reaching out to a mental health professional or organization. Because, in large, men have been reluctant to seek out co-occurring treatment, there are generally fewer programs designed specifically for men. But they do exist. In fact, Cornerstone provides these kinds of
FACT: Gay and bisexual men are most likely to have mental illness.
The Value of a Dual Diagnosis Program
The findings of the National Academy of Science report, while not totally predictive of drug addiction, do underscore the relationship between mental health issues and substance abuse. That’s why co-occurring, or dual diagnosis, treatment is so critical in treating drug addiction and mental health conditions.
Cornerstone Recovery Center is one of only a handful of South Florida drug treatment centers that offer co-occurring services to treat primary mental health disorders. If you or a guy you love needs help for an anxiety disorder and addiction, please contact our admissions counselor online or call 1-888-711-0354 today. All communications with our staff are confidential.