In an earlier post, inspired by the Movember movement, I wrote about two male specific cancers and how to screen for them. Prostate and testicular cancer are two of the three major research areas supported by the Movember foundation. The third one is men’s mental health which is the second topic in my short series.While there is a general crisis in mental health access for everyone, it is particularly severe for men. Mental health is a broad topic, but I want to focus on depression and what I feel is the most alarming trend: the worrisome rise in male suicide. Men now make up 75% of all suicide victims. The suicide rate for men is particularly high in rural areas and amongst veterans, young American Indians and gay men. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain this: one of them is unemployment, and the other is the decline of traditional male manufacturing jobs. These two potential causes are exacerbated by a system that is perceived as “alienating to men” which makes them far less likely to access mental health than women.
- Suffering from undiagnosed and untreated depression
- Undergoing divorce
- Going through unemployment
- Dealing with substance abuse issues
The big question is how do we help men feel more comfortable speaking about mental health issues and get them to seek help when needed? I believe the biggest impact that caregivers, friends and family can have is to 1) identify men who are at risk and 2) provide open, nonjudgmental communication. Overtime, this will help normalize mental health issues in a way that makes constructive conversation possible. These conversations would help men feel that they are not alone with their feelings and provide them with confidence to seek help from their physicians or other mental health providers.
The second part of improving men’s mental health is to provide a care model that is less alienating and more supportive for their specific needs. There are outreach programs designed to meet the needs of at-risk men, which are invaluable in this regard. Two examples are the Wounded Warrior Project and Man Therapy. It has also been my experience that men initially prefer to discuss mental health issue in a nonthreatening clinical environment such as a primary care clinic. They are much less likely than women to specifically seek out a mental health specialist as a first step. Family Practice providers need to be ready to have those conversations and properly manage their patient’s concerns.
Many programs, such as the Movember movement, are starting to improve the visibility of mental health issues for men. This goes a long way in supporting males who may be suffering silently with their concerns. If you know someone with depression or are concerned about suicidality, do not be afraid to have the conversation and to be a voice of encouragement toward getting them into an appropriate clinical setting to discuss these concerns. We all struggle at various times in our lives. For men especially, seeking help is often the hardest and bravest thing a man can do.
For additional resources and support for mental health, please see down below for a full listing.
Dr. Bruce Baker
To read more blog posts written by Dr. Baker, click here.
If mental health difficulties are leading you to consider suicide or think about death often, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers. This 24-hour hotline is available to anyone in crisis and provides free and confidential emotional support and crisis intervention.
This unique hotline is available via text message to anyone experiencing mental health difficulties or an emotional crisis. Highly trained counselors offer support and guidance to calm you down and make sure you are safe.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
The NAMI Helpline is available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST to answer your general questions about mental health issues and treatment options. You can get information on mental health services in your area and learn how to help a loved one find treatment.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
If you’re ready to seek professional treatment for your mental health condition, SAMHSA’s helpline and web-based behavioral health treatment services locator can help you find information about treatment providers, therapists counselors, support groups, and community resources in your area.
The WWP mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors who incurred a physical or mental injury, illnesses, or wound, co-incident to your military service on or after September 11, 2001. You may also be eligible for the program if you are the family member or caregiver of a Wounded Warrior.
From Grit Health: Since its 2012 launch, Man Therapy’s multimedia suicide-prevention campaign has proven that using humor gets serious results. Our target? Working-aged men in “Double Jeopardy”, a population that accounts for the largest number of suicide deaths, and is also the least likely to seek or receive any kind of support.
Through interactive content, our doctor-in-residence Dr. Rich Mahogany uses a one-two punch of manly humor and disarming bluntness on topics that are normally taboo, giving men permission to acknowledge their feelings and take their next step – whatever that may be. Dr. Rich Mahogany invites guys to take the eye-opening 20-Point Head Inspection, examine their own wellness and consider a wide array of actions, tools and resources designed to put them on the path to treatment and recovery.
The idea? Reduce stigma and get men to view mental health as they would a broken leg or open wound. We achieve this by speaking to guys in a way that no other mental health initiative has before.