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MEN-tal Health Matters

by Aaron Mugrage

As a twenty-year-old man living in a middle-class, stable home for most of my life, you might say I have it pretty good. My parents have always made sure me and my siblings had everything we needed. My family is a good support system, as are many families, but sometimes it is not so easy to open up. Even opening up to the people closest to you comes with challenges. Living is challenging, there are so many unknowns and so much uncertainty. Life throws curveballs or crazy pitches and many people still expect you to knock all of these out of the park. Life takes unexpected turns or sometimes you are caught in a jam. I have had my fair share of all of these events. Don’t get me wrong I have a good life, but sometimes life gives me more than I can seem to handle. Having the feeling of everything being thrown my way and I just can’t catch them all. Not getting into my dream school, getting into an amazing school, and not being able to go. A long-term relationship ended abruptly, losing friends, weight gain, and bad habits. On top of all of this was school and other personal matters which just carried even more weight. I was drowning, caught up in a cycle where nothing seemed to go my way. Now as a young man there is a certain persona you are “expected” to have. “Be a man”, “Toughen up”, “Men are not supposed to be emotional” or my favorite “ You’re twenty years old, what could you possibly have gone through?”. I am here to tell you that it is a load of crap. It is okay for you as a man to actually feel. It is okay to feel emotions. It is okay to not be okay! We have all been there, and what is not okay is for someone else to tell you how you should feel. I think the biggest problem today is that men are expected to be this strong and emotionless being. It is hard as a man to express how you are feeling without feeling like “less of a man”. It is important we as a society do not downplay men’s mental health issues. Men as a whole need to be more supportive of men.

Research has shown that young men(18-24) as a whole are least likely to seek out help when dealing with mental health troubles(1). This is troubling seeing as most mental health issues surface around this age in men(1). Men in this age range also have the highest rates of suicide, which is very alarming(1). It is reported across the world from all countries that the male suicide rate is 3-7.5x higher than women(3). Men report not knowing how to deal with their mental health or do not know how to effectively communicate their issues(1). There is also a stigma around seeking help as a man: embarrassment, fear, and shame(1). Men seeking help often make them feel like “less of a man”. This stigma of being a macho man has influenced men today to not get help(1). Not seeking proper help often leads to other harmful coping techniques: Alcohol and substance abuse and aggressive tendencies(1). Typical identifying signs for depression(sadness or worry) are virtually non-existent in men(3). ‘Male depressive syndrome’ is the typical way that male depression is indicated, mostly through external indicators(3). Those signs include anger issues, substance misuse, and risk-taking behaviors (3). Noticing these signs can help save a life or improve your friend’s mental well-being.

HeadsUpGuys is an organization that is dedicated to helping men overcome their mental health barricades. HeadsUpGuys offers men to reach out online or by phone and talk about their issues(2). They have links to information about things like depression(2). They provide sources to help assess yourself and what you may need(2). After these assessments, they give you advice or steps to take about your answers(2). They even give sources to identify risk factors for poor mental health(2). By reading these sources you can point out your own risks, or the people around you. HeadsUpGuys provides opportunities to reach out and seek help, they provide links to find doctors, hotlines, a consult, and therapists(3). This organization is taking a stance against all the stigmas and reasons why men do not seek help. This organization is bringing men together so they are not fighting their battles alone. It is organizations like these that are going to break the stigmas and break down the barricades for men all over the world.

Be a good friend and person to those around you. Reach out and offer your support to those who you know or you think is going through a bad time. I know it may seem awkward at first but by the end of it, you may have helped pull someone through a tough time or maybe saved them. Secondly, if you are experiencing any depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues, reach out! Find someone trusting to reach out to, whether it is an adult or trusted friend or colleague. Lastly, donate to https://headsupguys.org/ or an organization like this. These organizations are needed for guys around the world who are feeling stuck and unwilling to seek help. Be the change!

Resources

1- Lynch, Louise, et al. “Young Men, Help-Seeking, and Mental Health Services: Exploring Barriers and Solutions – Louise Lynch, Maggie Long, Anne Moorhead, 2018.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557988315619469.
2- “Manage & Prevent Depression in Men.” HeadsUpGuys, 6 Oct. 2021, headsupguys.org/.
3- Bilsker, Dan, et al. “Critical Issues in Men’s Mental Health.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 63, no. 9, Sept. 2018, pp. 590–596, doi:10.1177/0706743718766052.

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