The Pressure of Masculinity: Why Men Struggle to Prioritize Mental Health
In recent years, mental health has become a more important issue. More people are recognizing the importance of taking care of their mental well-being. Despite this increasing awareness, there is still a large gender gap in how mental health is perceived.
Recently, the Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted a study that revealed that the rate of mental illness in men in Australia is still alarmingly high. One in four men has symptoms that are indicative of a clinical mental disorder. Surprisingly, only 25% percent of men said they would seek out help from a professional in spite of the high prevalence of mental illness. This highlights the need to increase awareness and support men's mental health in Australia. Men are more likely to avoid seeking help if they have mental health issues. This can lead to serious consequences such as burnout.
Why is it that there is so much stigma around the subject? Is this condition by masculinity norms or job roles?
In 2020, researchers conducted a cross-sectional study to assess male role orientations, work-related attitudes, symptoms of mental disorders, and attitudes related to the stigma of mental illness in 250 men treated for depression.
Through latent profile analysis, they identified three distinct classes of men: one with a less traditional male role orientation and low coping capacities, one with a traditional masculinity orientation and high professional ambitions but low coping capacities, and one with less traditional masculinity-oriented, medium professional ambitions, and high coping capacities. Those in the first two classes had more stigmatizing attitudes, longer periods of untreated illness, and more severe symptoms of mental disorders compared to those in the third class.
This means that if these profiles do not completely distance themselves from their professional ambitions and a lack of ability to cope with professional stress, then “slackening of traditional masculinity norms is associated with improved psychological well-being”.
But what are these masculinity norms?
The Mind and Masculinity
Men have historically been taught strength, stoicism, and self-sufficiency are the hallmarks of manhood. These norms often discourage vulnerability, sensitivity, and expressions of emotion that are not traditionally associated with masculinity. Men are often expected to conform to these norms in order to be accepted and respected by their peers, which can lead to pressure to conform to certain behaviors and attitudes.
These cultural expectations about masculinity may make it less common for men to seek treatment for mental health problems. Asking for help or admitting weakness is considered a weakness. Those who seek treatment might feel that they are not meeting these ideals, which can be a hindrance to receiving the help they need.
A lack of education and awareness about mental health issues may also contribute to men's reluctance in seeking help. Many men don't recognize the symptoms and may not realize they have a diagnosable condition. This makes it difficult to find support.
What Happens When You Don't Seek Help
Neglecting to seek help for mental health issues can lead to serious consequences. Burnout is a condition that results in mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion from prolonged stress. Burnout can manifest as feelings of depression, cynicism, and a decreased sense of accomplishment. All of these things have negative effects on your mental and physical well-being.
Men who work in high-stress environments such as hospitals, law firms, and corporate offices are more likely to experience burnout. They may feel under pressure to work long hours, accept more responsibility and achieve high-performance goals while maintaining a calm exterior. This can lead to depression, burnout, and other mental health problems over time. (Try our FREE Burnout Assessment Test)
Removing Barriers to Help-Seeking
If we want to improve mental health outcomes for all, it is crucial that we remove the barriers that keep men from seeking treatment for their mental health problems. This requires a multifaceted approach, which includes education, awareness-raising, and destigmatization.
Men can be encouraged to seek help by providing targeted mental health education in male-dominated spaces like workplaces, clubs, and community organizations.
Men may feel more comfortable seeking out help when they need it if mental health conversations are normalized in these settings.
To encourage help-seeking, it is important to challenge the traditional conceptions of masculinity which place emphasis on stoicism, self-sufficiency, and vulnerability over vulnerability and emotional openness. Targeted messaging campaigns, media representation, and public awareness campaigns can help promote more inclusive images of masculinity.
Show your vulnerability in private settings
Your team can benefit from your personal experiences with seeking help, regardless of whether they are professionals or colleagues. This helps to normalize the idea that people seek help and encourages others who are feeling the same to share their feelings. This is especially important for breaking down the stigma and fear surrounding mental health.
You can create a more casual and relaxed atmosphere for these conversations by having them in a café or lunch place, as opposed to in a conference room or formal meeting room. This will help everyone open up and lower the stakes.
It's essential to remember that seeking assistance for mental health issues is a sign of strength, not weakness. By taking proactive measures toward improving mental well-being, men can prioritize their well-being and lead more fulfilled lives.
Let’s work together to foster an environment that supports and encourages men to seek necessary services so we can all thrive.
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