Breaking down the stigma and getting you back to healthy living.
By Kristin Carlson, Marketing Specialist, Bonner General Health
The stigma of mental health is slowly dissipating, and the concept of help-seeking is becoming more socially acceptable. The American Psychological Association reports that 9% of men have feelings of anxiety or depression daily. Yet, only 1 in 4 spoke to a mental health professional. Men are statistically less likely to seek help than women. Is it because of stereotypes, or is it a lack of access or a lack of knowledge? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month (May) and Men’s Health Month (June), I asked two of our providers for their take on the reluctance of men to seek treatment, the first steps to feeling better, and more.
What factors may lead to mental health issues, particularly for men?
Dr. Joe Wassif, Psychologist at Bonner General Behavioral Health: “There are cultural issues within the larger US, but especially in our local area. Anger and aggression cover other emotional experiences such as depression and vulnerability. Our society teaches young men that stoicism, anger, and happiness are the only acceptable emotions. Additionally, there are increased body image and disordered eating behaviors in men, but this issue is stereotyped as a women’s issue; thus, providers generally underdiagnose or explore.”
Bonner General Family Practice Provider, Dave Moran, DNP: “Military service members, veterans, and law enforcement communities are often the men hardest hit with mental health concerns due to the nature of their employment. This community is heavy in retirees from these occupations with high hazards.”
Other factors leading to mental health issues include trauma, such as PTSD from childhood, a high stress/traumatic profession, heavy or strenuous workload or loss of work, financial stress, substance abuse, and separation or divorce.
What stigmas surround mental health for men that may cause reluctance to seek treatment?
Dr.Wassif: “Again, there is the issue of men having difficulty with vulnerability. The ways men tend to relate to other men may not allow for such conversation if “masculinity” is valued over vulnerability.”
Dave Moran, DNP: “Men often fail to report, or under-report, mental health issues/symptoms for many reasons. Men fear potential ridicule from their social networks. “Problems” are seen as a weakness in many environments, such as work, where men maintain their social and occupational circles.”
Suppose you have a male friend or acquaintance who is still reluctant to seek treatment or help. What would be your advice?
Dave Moran, DNP: “Men who are struggling with mental health issues should be reminded that these issues are not only psychological but often involve biological etiologies. Seeking medical advice can be the path to quicker diagnosis, treatment, and potential relief of their symptoms.”
Dr. Wassif: There are non-traditional therapeutic services in our community, such as Men’s Groups. Also, it may be easier to start with a primary care provider as opposed to jumping into therapy or psychiatry. Our community, in general, seems to be becoming more sensitive to screening for mental health issues.
The benefits of seeking treatment can drastically improve your quality of life, including enhancing your relationships, dealing with stress, and overall health. Understanding your condition and managing symptoms can also help eliminate damaging behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol, overeating, and overspending.
“Individuals should know that they are not alone, and help is often available from a multitude of resources, including Bonner General Health.” – Dave Moran, DNP
Additional resources available:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illnesshas a free text service for people in crisis (text “NAMI” to 741-741) and a hotline (1-800-950-NAMI) to answer questions about mental health and provide referrals.
- NAMI Far North – a local chapter of the above, provides support and education locally for persons living with mental illness and their families. namifarnorth.org
- Idaho Crisis & Suicide Hotline: For anyone needing to talk. You don’t have to be suicidal to call. Call (800) 273-8255 Text (208) 398-4357 idahocrisis.org
- The National Institute of Mental Healthoffers an online behavioral health treatment locator and a hotline (1-800-662-HELP) to call to receive information on mental health and referrals to treatment providers.
For a complete list of services provided by Bonner General Health, visit our website www.bonnergeneral.org. This article was written for publication in Sandpoint Living Local – May/June 2022 Edition.