Opinion | We need to address stigmas around men’s mental health

Stigmas around men’s mental health has created a significant crisis in men’s mental health.

Evan Weidl

There is a silent killer of men in the U.S., and it isn’t a virus or infection; it’s depression.

Male suicide has been on the rise since 2000. Almost 10 percent of men have daily feelings of depression or anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association. Yet, less than half of that 10 percent spoke to a mental health professional or took medication for those feelings.

Norms and standards surrounding masculinity encourage men to suppress their feelings, and this is killing men. It will take a significant change in the way society views masculinity to remove stigmas surrounding mental health. 

Some of the most prominent contributors to the men’s mental health crisis are the traditional standards of masculinity. According to a study by Benita N. Chatmon, Louisiana State University assistant dean for clinical nursing education, the traditional roles men are raised on encourage power and dominance. This in turn discourages expression of emotion and leads to the inability to understand and communicate emotion.

Earlier this year, I went through a depressive episode. I didn’t enjoy doing anything that I normally loved doing. Every part of my day felt like a chore; even getting out of bed in the morning took a significant amount of willpower.

Even at my worst, I never felt ashamed to feel what I felt, nor did I feel ashamed to admit that I needed to seek out help. I started seeing a therapist, and my mental health has improved significantly since then.

I feel very lucky that I could quickly recognize that I needed help and seek it out. Unfortunately, this is not the case for millions of men. I can’t imagine where I would be today if I never sought out help, and we must prioritize teaching men that it is necessary to admit they are struggling and need help.

To create a significant shift in our society’s attitude toward men’s mental health, it will take countless small actions committed by individuals. 

This is not to say masculinity has no value, but it should not take priority over mental health. Strong masculinity and consideration of mental health are not mutually exclusive, and we must teach young men to find that balance. Taking care of your mental health and well-being does not mean you are weak, nor does it diminish your masculinity.

Additionally, men must hold themselves accountable as well. If we want things to be more accommodating to us, we must be more accommodating to one another. This means listening to one another, taking our own health and the health of others seriously, and recognizing that being competitive and dominant should not be a priority over mental health.

The most important thing we can do as a society is create a culture that educates and encourages everyone to seek help if they experience mental health issues.

If you know someone who is or may be struggling with their mental health, reach out to them. Even a small action like that may make the difference for someone who is struggling.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.