Men and Mental Health

Men and Mental Health | Dr. Ali Ghahary

There have been many discussions surrounding mental health, mental illness, and the need for increased awareness. However, as many as 40% of men will avoid discussions about their mental health. In Canada alone, 75% of all suicides are men. Globally, a man will die from suicide every minute.

As for why men won’t talk about mental health, the reasons vary. Some want to try to deal with it on their own, they don’t want to be a burden on anyone else, while others say they’re simply too embarrassed and afraid to admit they need the help. In addition, there’s also the negative stigma that still surrounds mental illness to this day despite a great deal of progress being made in effort to end the stigmatization, which also causes people to shy away from having open and honest discussions with their friends, family members, and healthcare providers. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out for support if you need it, as it’s not a sign of personal weakness. Just as you would take care of every other aspect of your health, such as a broken bone or an infection, your mental health matters just as much and needs to get the same level of attention and care.

The most common types of mental illness that affect men include anxiety, stress and depression. Causes include everything from pressure at work, financial difficulty, or other underlying health problems – while mental illness can also be caused by genetics. Substance use also often co-occurs in men with mental illness, and men are also much more like to engage in substance abuse than women. When you ignore the signs of depression, the condition will only worsen, as will things like substance abuse and other erratic, impulsive behaviours. Mental illness can also have a negative effect on your sleep. In fact, as many as 90% of men with mental health issues say they have trouble sleeping – and that lack of sleep can cause a wide range of problems, including such as lack of clarity, and increased irritability. If you’re having difficulty falling or staying asleep, Dr. Ghahary recommends finding something you can do to help you relax. A great way to lower your heart rate and calm both the mind and body, thus making it easier for you to sleep, is to practice deep breathing techniques. It’s also not uncommon for a mental illness, such as depression, to decrease your appetite. By eating less, you may actually be depleting your energy, so you should try to get something nutritious in your system, even if it’s something as simple as raw fruits or vegetables. Keep in mind that while some individuals won’t eat when they’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed, other will turn to food to help them cope – and they’re often the wrong ones (i.e. sugary sweets, carbohydrates), so always make healthy choices. When a man is feeling depressed, they will also be less likely to want to engage in physical activity. Many studies have shown physical activity to improve the mood and relieve stress, not to mention its many other health benefits – and while it may be hard to get or stay motivated, you should try to include some type of physical activity into your daily routine.

Personal relationships can also suffer as a result of mental illness, as men also tend to withdraw from friends and family. However, this may actually make one feel more depressed. Being social when you’re depressed might seem nearly impossible, but it is your social connections that can actually help you fight off a mental illness like depression. It can also help boost your self-esteem, and have an overall positive impact on your mind.

While it can take courage to step up and ask for help, know that it can be done. For more information on how mental illness affects men and what you can do to take action, visit www.headsupguys.org.