Mental Health in Men
One in five adults experience a mental health illness.
In a 2017 survey of adults in the United States, it was determined that 3.3 percent of men experience severe mental illness, and 15.1 percent of men experience any mental illness.
Mental illness affects both men and women, yet it often manifests differently in each gender. Historically, men are less likely to pursue treatment for mental illness, so statistics may be misleading since so many struggles are not reported.
With any mental illness, it’s important to look at the big picture including how physical and environmental factors might be affecting mental health. This can range from looking at basics such as diet and whether you are getting enough sleep, to hormone levels which can be explored by a medical professional. Research supports that low levels of testosterone in men is correlated with depression, stress, and mood swings especially among older men.
Men and Mental Illness in Mississippi
In Mississippi specifically, a report from 2016 found that 86,113 total people were served that year through community mental health settings and state hospitals. Men comprised 47.1 percent of this number. This number represents severe mental illness, thus, we can trust that many more men in Mississippi are affected by mental health issues since mental health ranges greatly across a continuum.
Common mental health issues among men
Approximately one in five men develop alcohol dependency at some point in their lives. Substance use is tied to stressful life events such as unemployment and divorce. Substances often appeal when people are in emotional pain.
Over 6 million men suffer from depression each year even though for many men it may not look like depression.
Men are traditionally taught to stifle their feelings in an effort to appear tough and manly. Because of this dynamic, depression often manifests as anger and irritability in men rather than as sadness.
Because of powerful myths about mental illness, both in general and especially for men, many men feel like they have to carry the burden of mental illness alone. These myths carry messages like “depression is a sign of personal weakness” and “men should not ask for help, rather they should cope on their own.” When men are silent about depression, the feelings of darkness and hopelessness intensify. Many men will not seek help and support until they feel that they are at rock bottom, and other men do not seek help at all. Untreated depression is the greatest risk factor of suicide, and more than four times as many men die by suicide in the United States compared to women.
While in the throes of depression, thinking becomes distorted and cloudy. The pain may be so intense that it is all you see. Problem solving and hope seem intangible and so distant that suicide may appeal as the answer. Suicide is never the answer, and there is always a better option than suicide. Risk factors for suicide include social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, military related trauma, sexual orientation, genetic predisposition, and having other mood disorders.
Other mental health issues affect men including anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders as well as others.
Mental Health Concerns for New Fathers
Being a new father brings incredible joy, yet also significant adjustment and stress all at the same time. As a new dad you might find yourself in wonder of the little being who is your son and daughter, while also feeling immense exhaustion over lack of sleep. You may be feeling financial pressure in a profound way as you seek to provide for your child and his or her future. Your daily routines look drastically different, and you may wonder how you will ever have time for a hobby or time alone with your spouse or significant other ever again?
Adjusting to a new baby is normal. Feeling overwhelmed with caretaking of a newborn is normal. If your baby was premature or if there are medical complications with your baby or his or her mom, your reality may feel very vulnerable. Amidst the adjustment and vulnerability, give yourself grace that adjusting takes time. Consider taking care of yourself in the midst of caring for your baby as a top priority similar to the flying instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask before you put on your child’s. You will adjust and find time for hobbies, intimacy, and friendships again. Your life will feel normal again, just a new normal, one filled with beautiful chaos.
If you find yourself struggling with emotions more intensely, it is possible for such a change to trigger a mental health reaction that needs attention. In fact, approximately one in ten men experience postpartum depression.
If you find yourself affected in your day to day beyond what feels normal, to the point that anxiety or depression feel like they are taking over, reach out for support. If you are already have a history of struggling with mental health and are looking forward to becoming a father, consider intentionally building your support system as you prepare for the transition to parenthood.
Mental-Health Concerns as Men Age
Approximately 20% of people age 55 years old or older experience some type of mental health concern. In fact, the highest suicide rates in the United States are for Caucasian men over the age of 85. This statistic highlights the emotional and physical pain that may be associated with aging. However, while depression rates increase with age, we do not have to associate depression as a normal part of aging.
There can be something appealing about escaping pain, yet it is good to be reminded that there is support and hope along the journey when we acknowledge and name how we are feeling. In this way, it’s possible to age with grace and acceptance, to cling to hope each day instead of despair. Two particularly significant buffering factors for mental illness as we age include that of social connectedness and having a life purpose or meaning. As we age, we often lose some social connections that we once had, and sometimes what previously gave our life meaning is no longer present. This is particularly tangible in life’s losses of spouses and loved ones. In these instances, an aging adult is tasked with maintaining or forging new social connections and pressing into a meaningful life even if what gives you purpose is a new interpretation of meaning.
Thankfully, awareness of men’s mental health issues is growing, and myths such as “real men don’t talk about their feelings” are being challenged. There is now a greater emphasis on vulnerability being a core feature of emotional strength. Because of this there is greater activism and support around men’s mental health than before. In addressing the stigma around mental health, there is greater understanding of the value of reaching out for help. With treatment there is great hope for mental illness to become more manageable, leading to a restoration of joy and freedom in the lives of men.
Explore Self-Assessment Guides from Right Track Medical Group
Resources on Mental Health in Men
Depression in Men: HeadsUpGuys: https://headsupguys.org/mens-depression/
This website is dedicated to providing education on depression in men. It focuses on highlighting that men battling depression are not alone and provides statistics and resources on depression in men.
Infographic: Mental Health for Men: https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/infographic-mental-health-men
This infographic provides a wealth of information related to statistics on mental health in men including prevalence and famous athletes with mental illness.
Meeting the mental health needs of new fathers: Nursing Times: https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/mental-health-nurses/meeting-the-mental-health-needs-of-new-fathers/7013919.article
Learn more about how the mental health of new fathers can be treated along with the mother and child.
Mental Heath Facts in America: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf
Statistics provided in this infographic by the National Alliance on Mental Illness explain the prevalence of mental illness by diagnosis, consequences, impact, treatment in America and ways to get help.
Mental Illness: National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml
Learn more about the two broad categories that can be used to describe mental health conditions: Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI).
Mississippi 2016 Mental Health National Outcome Measures (NOMS): https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/Mississippi-2016.pdf
This data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration details Mississippi state funded mental health resources.
New dad: Tips to help manage stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/new-dad/art-20045880
Becoming a new dad can bring joy — and stress. Find out how to deal with the difficulties of parenthood and develop a rewarding relationship with your newborn.
The State of Mental Health and Aging in America: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf
Provided by the Healthy Aging Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), this report examines the status of mental health in the aging population of the United States.
By Elizabeth Burton, LPC, EdS, NCC for Right Track Medical Group
This article is provided for information only and is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a mental-health professional.