From a young age, boys often are told that they need to be strong and independent, keeping their emotions and thoughts to themselves. This belief has far-reaching consequences. In the United States, men are 3.6 times more likely to die by suicide than women. The higher suicide risk is associated with men being less likely to seek help for mental health struggles.
Seeking support for mental health can be life changing. So can men be encouraged to get the help they need? It starts with understanding the unique ways men can experience and express mental health struggles.
Men and Women Express Mental Health Issues Differently
For men, depression often goes unidentified, in part because their symptoms are different than for women. Men with depression may experience symptoms such as:
● Anger, irritability and aggression
● Body aches/pains and digestive problems without a clear cause
● Difficulty focusing
● Engaging in risky behaviors
● Feeling unexcited by things they used to enjoy
● Misuse or abuse of alcohol and/or drugs
● Suicidal ideation
● Trouble sleeping
Why Men Don’t Go to Therapy
There are several reasons why men don’t go to therapy:
Social stigma. They fear shame and judgment if they express their struggles
Gender roles. Seeking help may be viewed as a “weakness,” leading men to be hesitant about seeking psychiatric help.
Difficulty expressing emotions. Men may struggle to verbalize their feelings or share them with others, coupled with the ingrained belief that they should “man up” and deal with it themselves.
Perception. Some dislike the idea of being dependent on medications or therapy to be functional or feel happy. Though most wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical care for a broken ankle or take medication for high blood pressure, some men may worry they’ll be perceived as weak or broken if they need therapy or medications to help with depression or anxiety.
Searching for a Therapist
A therapist can work with you to develop healthy strategies for overcoming negative thought patterns, working through past trauma and facing difficult emotions. Finding the right therapist may take a bit of trial and error, but seeking a therapist who is the right fit will be well worth the effort.
Most therapists offer free phone consultations so you can ask them questions and decide if they are the right person to work with.
Good rapport. Developing a comfortable relationship with your therapist is important to ensure your needs are met. You’ll want to work with someone with whom you can have open, honest dialogue and develop trust over time. You may have to talk to a few to find the therapist with whom you connect best.
Credentials. Find a licensed mental health professional who follows a code of ethics. Check their credentials and look for a professional who has experience with your concerns and provides the type of treatment you are seeking.
Goal setting. If you’re seeking therapy to address certain issues, you’ll want to work with a therapist who encourages you to set goals. Your therapist should ask you about your goals and suggest some — potentially giving you “homework” to do between sessions — that will help you move forward and feel better.
Where Should I Look for a Therapist?
Searching for a therapist can feel a little daunting at first. There are several ways to find a therapist in your area.
Talk with your primary care physician. Let your doctor know about your concerns and ask for referrals for psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists.
Check with your insurance company. Call the number on the back of your insurance card or log in to the member portal on your insurance company’s website to find therapists who are in network to help keep costs down.
Online therapist directories. Many websites have therapist directories that allow you to search for therapists by location, education, treatment specialty (like grief, depression or anxiety), experience and type of therapy.
Therapy can be life-changing for anyone struggling with mental illness and can have a profound positive impact on a person. Research shows that the benefits of therapy can continue throughout a person’s life, even long after treatment has ended.
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