It’s Time for Men to Talk About Mental Health

Mental illness continues to carry the burden of stigma. Unfortunately, this stigma can cause people to avoid seeking help from doctors or admitting to loved ones that they have mental health challenges out of fear of being judged or treated differently.

Therapist Chis Ferry, Executive Director of PA Community Programs for KidsPeace, describes the mental health stigma like this: If someone’s uncle were diagnosed with cancer, friends and family would send flowers and visit him in the hospital, giving him support and showing love in his time of need. But if someone’s uncle were diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious, long-term mental health disorder, the reactions of support, sending of flowers, and words of love and encouragement may not be given to him from his friends and family in the same way.

Mental health is difficult to talk about, especially for men. But we would want the men in our lives to get all of the help they need, and to know that we are behind them 100 percent.

This June, in honor of National Men’s Health Month, nudge the men in your life to see the doctor regularly for preventive services for their overall health, including any concerns about mental health. We want the men in our lives to live longer and healthier!

Men die an average of six years before women. The fact that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women contributes to that trend.

Male suicides have been on the rise since 2000, according to Mental Health America. During 2010, a total of 38,364 Americans died by suicide. More than 79 percent of them were men.

Factors that drive this percentage include social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, military-related trauma, genetic predisposition, and other mood disorders, putting men at a higher risk of suicide.

Let’s break it down by the numbers from Mental Health America.

6 million. The number of men in the U.S. affected by depression each year. Men are more likely to report fatigue, irritability, and loss of interest in work or hobbies, rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness, explaining why male depression often goes undiagnosed.

3 million. The number of men who struggle with panic disorder or phobias.

90 percent. Of the people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. About 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with this disorder.

1 in 5. The portion of men who develop alcohol dependence because of an underlying mental illness. Male veterans, regardless of their form of service, experience nearly twice the rate of alcohol and drug compared women.

These athletes and actors are encouraging frank discussion about mental health by going public about their own struggles and diagnoses.

Terry Bradshaw. The former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback suffered frequent panic attacks after games. He was diagnosed with clinical depression in the late 1990s.

Larry Sanders. The center for the Milwaukee Bucks left the NBA to spend time addressing his mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Jimmy Piersall. He played 20 years of professional baseball. During his rookie season in 1952, he suffered a breakdown, leading to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Zayn Malik. The award-winning pop singer openly discussed his struggle with anxiety and his battle with an eating disorder.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The famous actor recently opened up about his long battle with depression.

Whether it is getting yourself to the doctor or encouraging a loved one to seek help, make changes for the better in your life during this year’s National Men’s Health Month.