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Men’s Mental Health Stigma

Men's Mental Health Stigma & Statistics. Men's Mental Health Matters. Men's Mental Health Day. Men's Mental Health Crisis. Defying Toxic Masculinity.

Why do many men have a harder time seeking treatment for mental illness?

Even with the various mental health treatment modalities available, there is a disproportionate difference between the number of males experiencing mental health disorders and those seeking treatment. Mental health has become the “other” silent killer, particularly among men. [1] Why is this?

Men are considered deterred from engaging in mental health services due to socialization into traditional masculine gender roles. Traits associated with conventional masculinity include stereotypes of stoicism, invulnerability, and self-reliance, frequently discussed as they do not fit comfortably with psychological help-seeking.

For instance, negative emotions are perceived as a sign of weakness, discouraging men from reaching out to friends. Causing men’s mental health stigma. This negatively impacts men’s overall help-seeking behaviors and their choice of treatment type. Failure to adhere to these masculine stereotypes can internalize the wider public’s discriminative views. These self-stigmatizing beliefs further discourage men from seeking help.

Another explanation of men’s mental health stigma is that men often cope with mental health difficulties differently than women, demonstrating an increased tendency to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to alleviate emotional distress. This is supported by higher prevalence rates of substance use disorders in men. [2]

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Men’s Mental Health Crisis

Men's Mental Health Stigma

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, One in five adults (an estimated 43 million people) experience a mental illness in the United States every year. [3] Although both men and women are affected by mental illness, it is oftentimes overlooked in males. The overall prevalence of mental illness in men is typically lower as per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. [4] However, mental health among men often goes untreated because they are far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women.

  • Depression and suicide are ranked as the leading causes of death among men
  • Six million men are affected by depression in the United States every single year
  • Men (79% of 38,364) die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women [5]
  • They also die due to alcohol-related causes at 62,000 in comparison to women at 26,000 (Based on the Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) [6]
  • Men are also two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women

These statistics are troubling because they reinforce the notion of men’s mental health stigma, that males are less likely to seek help and more likely than women to turn to dangerous, unhealthy behaviors.

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Men’s Mental Health Stigma

The Stigma Men Face

Mental health-related stigma is an umbrella term that includes social (public) stigma, self-stigma (perceived), professional stigma, and cultural stigma. Social stigma refers to the negative attitudes toward and disapproval of a person or group experiencing mental health illness rooted in the misperception that symptoms of mental illness are based on a person having a weak character. These perceptions can lead to discrimination, avoidance, and rejection of persons experiencing mental illness. 

Self-stigma is the internalization of social stigma, in that the person with the mental illness feels shame about his or her symptoms. Professional stigma assumes that health professionals transfer and reinforce the stigmatization of their clients, while cultural stigma comprises the various ways that individual cultures interpret mental illness.

Men's Mental Health Stigma
As a society, we can work together to address men’s mental health stigma.

Defying Toxic Masculinity

American men are subjected to a culture where the standards of masculinity are killing them. One factor contributing to the underuse of seeking professional help is masculinity norms. Masculine norms are the social rules and expected behavior associated with men and manhood within a given culture. Traditional masculinity or hegemonic masculinity is a subset of masculine norms that accentuate certain expressions of masculinity and invoke some men’s power, dominance, and privilege over women and some men. 

Toxic masculinity is the demonstration of masculinities enforced by restrictions in behaviors (e.g, crying, fear) based on gender roles that amplify existing power structures that favor the dominance of men. Toxic masculinity may lead to difficulty expressing emotions, which is often seen. If we evaluate the expectations of boys, there is a lot of aggression and violence. Boys are acculturated to play rough and are often allowed to break the rules. The phrase “boys will be boys” is normalized by these notions. Adherence to these rigid masculine norms may lead to:

  • Worsening of depression and anxiety
  • Abuse of substances
  • Greater health risk (e.g., cardiovascular and metabolic disease)
  • Issues with dating and interpersonal intimacy
  • Issues with interpersonal violence
  • Increase in overall psychological distress
  • Discouragement in seeking help
  • Homophobia

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How Can We Reduce the Men’s Mental Health Stigma?

Mental health-related discrimination hurts by limiting mental health–care access, help-seeking behaviors, and initial treatment for those experiencing mental illness, therefore contributing to increased morbidity and mortality rate of those experiencing mental illness.

Manhood needs to be redefined. There must be a transformation in changing the American culture in which males are more comfortable expressing themselves. If you’re worried that someone you care about may be struggling, or you think that you need help, look for these signs that indicate a need for outside assistance:

  • Change in mood
  • Changes or drops in work performance
  • Weight changes
  • Sadness, hopelessness, or anhedonia (a loss of pleasure and pulling away from things that used to provide enjoyment)
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues

If you recognize any of these symptoms in a loved one, remind them that asking for help can be a sign of strength rather than weakness. Also, as drug and alcohol abuse are prevalent in men, below are the guides to recognizing a problem with addiction. We can save lives by breaking the stigma on men’s mental health.

Substance use disorders are defined as a pattern of use that results in marked distress and/or impairment, with two or more of the following symptoms throughout a 12-month period:

  1. Using the substance in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  2. Unsuccessful attempts or persistent desire to reduce the use
  3. Too much time spent on obtaining, using, and/or recovering from the effects of the substance
  4. A strong craving for the substance
  5. Significant interference with roles at work, school, or home
  6. Continued use despite recurrent social or interpersonal consequences
  7. Reducing or giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the substance use
  8. Substance use in situations in which it may be physically hazardous
  9. Substance use despite recurrent or persistent physical or psychological consequences
  10. Tolerance of the substance
  11. Withdrawal from the substance [7]

Men’s Mental Health Matters

If you’ve had persistent symptoms of mental health problems for weeks or even months, it’s time to reach out for professional support. In many cases, men and women do not differ in the symptoms they will experience when struggling with their mental health. 

Regardless of societal, cultural, or even self-expectations, what’s most important is for individuals to receive the help and treatment they may need for their mental health. And for those who have overcome mental health obstacles in their own lives, don’t be afraid to share your own stories. Sometimes reducing stigma means being willing to talk about the times we’ve needed to ask for help ourselves.

Men’s Mental Health Day, June 13th

National Men’s Health Week is June 13-20, the week leading up to Father’s Day, We all have fathers, brothers, sons, grandfathers, and friends that are men! Some of us are even men ourselves! We want the men in our lives to be healthy, happy, and with us for a long time, and encouraging them to take care of themselves is a big part of that – a big part to end men’s mental health stigma.

Men’s Mental Health Treatment

The We Level Up FREE 24-hour Hotline can help you provide resources for substance abuse treatment options to help break the men’s mental health stigma. Get a free consultation now for your best-fitting treatment programs along with free rehab insurance verification. Call We Level Up today and speak with one of our addiction specialists to check your rehab insurance coverage and benefits.

Men's Mental Health Stigma
Support the men in your life by being an advocate for reducing men’s mental health stigma.

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[1] Males and Mental Health Stigma – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[2] Improving Mental Health Service Utilization Among Men: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Behavior Change Techniques Within Interventions Targeting Help-Seeking – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[3] National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2019). Mental health.
[4] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 18-5068, NSUDH Series H-53). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;

[5] Mental Health America [MHA]. (2020). Infographic: Mental health for men.
[6] Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;
[7] Adapted from American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.

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