We can’t wrap up Men’s Health Month without shining a light on one of the most crucial health issues facing men: mental health. Millions of American men experience mental health challenges throughout their lifetimes. In fact, more than six million men in the United States suffer from depression. Men are also three times more likely than women to struggle with substance abuse than women. Worst of all, 75% of suicides in the United States are men. More often than not, though, mental illness in men goes undiagnosed. Why is that?
Because of outdated and harmful ideas about manhood, sometimes men are uncomfortable admitting that they need help. They believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, and that “real” men should be able to control their feelings. They may also worry that they’ll become a burden on their loved ones. This can lead to loneliness, hopelessness, and other bad feelings that can make an existing mental health challenge worse. The truth is that your mental health has nothing to do with your strength or your character. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate; for some of us, it’s just the way our brains work. With good strategies, the right treatment, and a support system in place, mental health conditions are manageable.
A good first step toward improving your mental health is to reach out to someone you trust. Talking over a problem with a close friend or family member can help make a tough situation a lot easier to handle. They can help you sort out how you’re feeling and give you input on what to do next. You’re there for your friends and family whenever they need help. They’ll do the same for you.
Sometimes, you’re able to pin why you aren’t feeling like yourself to a specific event or part of your life, like a stressful job or an unhappy relationship. If you’re feeling bad when there’s nothing to feel bad about, though, that might be a sign of a bigger problem. Some of the most common signs of depression are:
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
- Trouble concentrating
- Changes in appetite and sleep habits
- Anger or irritability
When you think you might be experiencing depression, or any other mental health condition, it’s important to get professional help. A doctor or mental health professional can help you decide what treatment plan is best for you. Everyone experiences depression differently and will have different needs, but treatment plans will often include:
- Talk therapy with a mental health professional
- Lifestyle changes, like increasing your exercise and keeping stable daily routines
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
If a part of your treatment plan isn’t working for you, speak up. It may take time for you to find the right therapist, the right medication, or the healthiest lifestyle. That’s perfectly normal, and you shouldn’t view it as a setback.
Once you’ve settled on a treatment plan and it’s beginning to help, you might want to try out different strategies and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your mental health long-term.
- The hardest thing for many men is learning how to talk about their feelings, but the simple act of opening up can keep bad feelings in check. A support network, whether it’s big or small, empowers you to make good choices about your mental health.
- It’s important to maintain good relationships with your friends and family, and to keep up with your hobbies. Making time to visit with friends or do a favorite activity, even when you don’t feel up to it, can help you feel a little more normal. It might even lift your spirits!
- Committing to healthy habits, like regular exercise and a sensible diet, is as good for your body as it is for your mind. Physical activity is a natural mood booster, and eating right fuels your body. Certain foods contain vitamins and minerals that are proven to promote calmness and improve your mood. You might also find that cooking is something that distracts you from your troubles and makes you feel good.
- Make time for sleep. Many mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety, cause you to sleep either too much or not enough. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Establishing routines like this will help you to feel like you have control over your life.
- Take it easy. There’s only one you, and you deserve to be treated kindly. Don’t expect too much of yourself or beat yourself up for how you’re feeling. You aren’t weak, and you aren’t a burden. Be gentle with yourself while you’re dealing with a mental health challenge. You’re going through a lot.
Prioritizing your mental health and taking steps to feel better is one of the strongest choices any man can make. Talking about mental health challenges, seeking treatment, and learning to manage it will help you become the best brother, husband, father, and friend you can be.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need to speak with someone immediately, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline either by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visiting Lifeline Crisis Chat. If your life is in danger, call 911.