June is National Men’s Health Month. Although a quick Google search of this topic usually leads to a variety of information regarding physical health and wellness, men’s mental health is rarely discussed. But it should be front and center. A whopping one in five adults experience a mental health problem each year, and approximately 6 million males are affected by depression alone. It is best to know the facts of mental illness so that you can help yourself or the men in your life to keep in shape not only physically, but emotionally as well.
Depressed and silent
Depression is one of the top mental illnesses in our nation, and that includes the male demographic. Male depression is often likely to go undiagnosed because men may feel embarrassed by the idea of having a mental disorder and, therefore, are less likely to seek help. Not only that, but male symptoms differ from female symptoms in that they are not usually the stereotypical feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Instead, men may report increased fatigue, irritability and a loss of interest in work or other hobbies.
More than just mood swings
Anxiety is also a common mental concern among men, with panic disorders and phobias falling under this umbrella. Bipolar disorder is another rampant mental illness, affecting an equal number of both men and women. Psychosis and schizophrenia are surprisingly tilted in the direction of males. In fact, 90% of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia by the time they are age 30 are men. Most people may not think of men when they hear the term “eating disorder,” but men account for about 10% of anorexia and bulimia cases as well as 35% of binge-eating disorders.
Suicide is a growing problem
One of the fastest-growing mental health trends in our nation is suicide. All of the mental illnesses above can result in suicidal depression or other forms of self-harm. Suicide is actually the seventh leading cause of death for men in America, with the highest rates being in 85 and older white males. Those rates climb higher if you factor in military veterans as well as sexual orientation. Other risk factors can include substance abuse, unemployment, genetic predisposition, and other mood disorders.
What can help?
Healthy hormones, eating well, and getting plenty of physical activity are important for a man’s mental health. In fact, low testosterone can contribute to depression, stress, and even mood swings. Emotional expression is important as well, and many men feel they cannot express themselves properly because of our cultural and social norms. Seeing that men are more likely to downplay symptoms or to be reluctant to talk about how they are feeling, they may not get the professional help they need. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or any other mental disorder, encourage them to seek out a professional for guidance. Don’t be afraid to pursue the help you need or advocate for your own or your loved one’s well-being, especially when mental health is a concern.