There are many factors which might prevent a man from opening up about his struggles with mental health. He may not know that he has any kind of problem because he has never had to be aware of what living with a mental health issue means. A man may not open up about his mental health because he thinks what he is experiencing is normal or he thinks that what he is experiencing isn’t normal, but not as abnormal as other men’s experiences. He may and most likely will feel that he should be able to overcome whatever symptoms he is having on his own. If he is living with a substance use disorder having found himself addicted to drugs and alcohol, he feels that he should be able to quit on his own and that his addiction is a weakness. The perception of weakness is one of the primary factors which prevent a man from opening up about the troubling thoughts, feelings, and behaviors he is struggling with.
Men learn in their childhoods that sadness or feelings are a sign of weakness. Boys are taught to be ‘tough’ and to ‘man up’ and suppress their feelings. When boys mature into young men and older men, they are lacking in the ability to acknowledge, recognize, accept, and process their emotional selves. As a result, many men turn to sabotaging behaviors like substance abuse to cope with the feelings they were never taught to cope with.
An article on The Good Men Project answers the question “Why don’t men talk about their mental health?”: “Some men worry about how society will judge them if they aren’t tough. The idea of seeking treatment for a mental health condition or even the act of needing help is seen as a weakness.” The article explains that “Even men and boys who try counseling may worry about what others think of their decision.”
Opening up about mental health struggles is difficult for a man to do. Asking for help to overcome those mental health struggles is more difficult. Addiction and alcoholism are often accompanied with intense feelings of guilt and shame. For men who have been raised to feel guilty and ashamed of their struggles, that experience is tenfold.
When your son, brother, husband, boyfriend, coworker, boss, neighbor or any other man in your life opens up about a mental health struggle like an addiction to drugs and alcohol, it is critical to encourage him to open up and remind him that struggling is normal, even for men. Additionally, it is important to suggest that he seek out treatment or therapy of some kind as soon as possible.
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