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Men’s Mental Health – What They’re Not Talking About

What do Abraham Lincoln, Buzz Aldrin, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway have in common? Besides the fact they achieved legendary fame, they all suffered from clinical depression. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are scores of men with mental health disorders among the many famous (and not so famous).
As June marks Men’s Health Month, the major focus is typically on physical health, but there is a wide acknowledgement of the fact that mental health is a vital component of the healthcare equation. In fact, advocates are intent on expanding awareness of mental healthcare issues.

Mental health problems have a devastating impact on the individual, as well as the individual’s family, friends and work. It creates a domino effect, and when you crunch the numbers, it becomes apparent that this affects society as a whole.

Below, are some statistics from Mental Health America (MHA) and the Movember Foundation:

  • Six million people are impacted by depression yearly
  • Serious mental illness results in yearly lost earnings of $193.2 billion
  • There are 3,020,000 men with panic disorder, agoraphobia or other phobias
  • There are 2.3 million Americans with bipolar disorder – half of which are men
  • Ninety percent of the 3.5 million Americans diagnosed with schizophrenia by age 30 are men
  • An estimated 10 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia are men and 35 percent of patients with binge-eating disorders are men. Yet, men are much less likely to seek help for eating disorders than women
  • More than four times as many men than women suffer fatalities due to suicide in the U.S.
  • Each day 90 men in the U.S. take their lives by suicide

In addition to the above stats, consider our veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans; as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans; and 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan – the majority of whom are men.

What Can Be Done

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) and other such organizations, a giant obstacle for mental health treatment lies in men’s inability to acknowledge or discuss health issues, let alone mental health issues. Men are socialized to refrain from seeking help.

Awareness is key, and that’s why this month is so important. For example, it was the widespread awareness of a formerly delicate topic that has pushed men to seek help for erectile dysfunction (think Viagra advertising). This type of recognition and awareness now needs to expand to the mental health arena, so men can pursue the help they need without feeling shame or embarrassment.

Once they are ready for help, psychotherapy or other types of counseling provide a reliable course of action. It is always beneficial to explore talk therapy. In addition, qualified medical professionals can prescribe medications and customize treatment plans for psychological problems when indicated.

You Can Help

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress, it is important to reach out. Talk to the person or with someone related, and then seek out support from professional services. Oftentimes, it’s best to start with a family physician who can rule out anything physical and then refer the right specialist.