Overcoming Mental Health Challenges: Advice for Men

Father’s Day can be a difficult time for those who have lost their fathers or have strained relationships with them. It can also be a challenging day if they have lost a child.

I often think of the father of my two children who have passed away. Our dear 9-month-old daughter died over 30 years ago. He would text me on her birthday. His message was constantly the same, “Always remembered. Never forgotten.” When he spoke at our son’s funeral, he said that he lost his best buddy, his best friend. My heart went out to him.

Grief and Mental Health

The loss of a child is an incredibly difficult and traumatic experience for any parent. It can have a profound impact on both men and women.

Research indicates that the emotional impact of such a loss can lead to a range of psychological and physiological problems including depression, anxiety, cognitive and physical symptoms linked to stress, marital problems, increased risk for suicide, physical pain and guilt.

For men, the grieving process may differ from that of women. (I can attest to those differences.) Men are often more action oriented and tend to gather facts, problem solve and be very stoic. Rarely do they seek support networks or share their feelings.

Research shows that grieving parents are at risk for developing depression. While women are twice as likely to become depressed, men are less likely to seek help. Mental health symptoms present differently in men than women, it can be difficult to recognize when men are struggling.

My brother suffered from depression for at least 5 years before taking his life. His symptoms were obvious, and he was fully aware of his depressed state. His wife encouraged him to seek help and he worked with a therapist, stopping after meeting only a few times exasperated that he wasn’t getting immediate results. Medications were prescribed but he didn’t take them. Why did he stop?

Why Don’t men Seek Treatment?

Here are a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of self-awareness of depression signs and symptoms
  • Pressure around societal norms
  • Reluctance to talk about their problems
  • Traditional gender norms that discourage vulnerability
  • Toxic masculinity or harmful stereotypes abut what it means to be a man
  • Weakness
  • Lack of control

Depression affects over 6 million men per year. Depressive symptoms in men can manifest in increased fatigue, higher levels of irritability and anger. The loss of interest in work and other activities as well as sleep disruption are also signs. Additional mental health challenges include alcohol addiction and substance abuse. These factors can lead to suicide.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide prevention, the rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men. Men’s deaths are attributable to suicide are almost 4x higher than for women.

Signs of Poor Mental Health

  • Changes in sleep schedule and quality of sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Fluctuating energy levels
  • Increased or decreased appetite

Tips for Men to Take Care of Their Mental Health

  • Validate your emotions. Learn how to identify them and allow yourself to experience them
  • Recognize symptoms when you are struggling
  • Write about your feelings. Seeing your thoughts on paper offers a different perspective
  • Identify your support system. You are not meant to “do life alone.”
  • Make time for your friendships
  • Identify unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, gambling, addiction to porn, work or working out too much.
  • Embrace healthy habits. Hobbies give your brain a break from everyday stressors.
  • Practice breathwork. It encourages your body to relax and reduce stress.
  • Move your body. Exercise boosts endorphins that can improve mood.
  • Practice self-care. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Seek support from an experienced coach, therapist or psychologist. They have more tools to help than friends and family.

June is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month

June 10-June 16 is Men’s Health Week

Help to bring attention to men’s mental health by sharing this information.
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