Men's Mental Health
by The Mind Faculty
A study of men’s health in Malaysia recorded that men’s mental health contributes to 8% of the burden of disease. Experts suggest that men are less likely to seek mental health help compared to women. However, this doesn’t mean that they are less likely to experience mental health issues. In fact, men are two or three times more likely than women to die by suicide. This suggests that men are less likely to be aware of or recognise the stressors or mental health conditions that make them more vulnerable to suicide ideation.
In Malaysia, women report higher levels of depression and anxiety. However, men contribute to the majority of death by suicide. The results suggest that men may experience stress or mental health conditions differently compared to women. Therefore, in order to manage men’s mental health, we need to consider the how men experience mental health in comparison to women and their different coping strategies.
How Masculine Stereotypes Affect Men’s Mental Health
Stereotypes of what it means to be a ‘man’ can put unhealthy and often damaging pressure on men to conform to certain behaviours that can affect their mental health.
Common masculine stereotypes that can harm mental health:
Self sufficiency. Talking with others about your issues is weak. You need to figure out your problems on your own.
Acting tough. You should always act strong even if you’re scared or nervous.
Your role as a man. Men should financially provide for their family. They should not do household chores.
Aggression and control: Men should use violence when necessary.
These stereotypes can affect how men cope with their mental health issues. For example, they may feel having feelings or talking about them makes them weak. Therefore, if something makes them feel stressed or sad - such as pressure from work - they may believe they are weak for feeling this way. Instead of talking about their feelings, they may keep it to themselves and try to distract themselves from them by playing sports or drinking with their friends. However, if they are not processing their issues properly, it can build up and affect their mental health.
Consequently, it is important to explore how masculine gender stereotypes can affect men’s mental health.
Managing Men’s Mental Health
In order to address men’s mental health, it is important to find strategies that take into account how masculine stereotypes may influence how men view and seek help for their mental health issues.
Firstly, we need to acknowledge how damaging these stereotypes can be and avoid reinforcing them. E.g., refrain from saying ‘man up’ or ‘stop being a girl, boys don’t cry.’ Instead, validate how they feel and create a safe space for them to share what they are going through. E.g., ‘If my boss treated me that way, I would be sad too. It’s normal to feel that way if you’re being treated unfairly. If you ever want to talk, I’m here for you.’
Another approach you can use is the ‘shoulder-to-shoulder principle’ which is approaching the issue during an activity such as watching sport or going for a run. This can help the conversation feel less emotionally intense and make it easier to open up.
We also need to be mindful that men have a tendency to externalise their mental health issues compared to women. E.g., men are more likely to have alcohol or drug dependency instead of exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety.
The Future of Men’s Mental Health
Mental pain is as real as physical pain - whether it’s for men or for women. If you see someone you love suffering, let them know you are there for them - whether this is being a safe space to open up or helping them to make a therapy appointment.
The Mind Faculty is a private mental health clinic in Kuala Lumpur offers psychiatric, psychological and counselling services for men. We also offer drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).