Men’s Mental Health Stigma Explained

men's mental health stigma

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Even in this day and age, many still fear what they don’t understand. This has led to many developing a negative perception of certain things that don’t deserve such ideation. One example is men’s mental health stigma, where many believe that people who have mental health issues are dangerous, incurable, and even contagious.

What is Mental Health Stigma?

A stigma is defined as a negative attitude or discrimination against a person based on specific characteristics, such as disability, health disorder, or mental illness. It could even expand into a broader sense to include race, religion, culture, gender, and sexual orientation.

Apart from racial prejudice, mental health stigma is one of the most prevalent negative perceptions that is prevalent in the world today. Many see it as a distinguishing mark of genetic or even racial and cultural inferiority, while others view it as a form of karmic or divine punishment for some perceived wrongdoing.

Whichever the case may be, this form of stigma came out of fear and a lack of misunderstanding. It is not something that people get “infected” with and is certainly not deserving of the treatment that is often extended to those who suffer from one form of mental health issue or another.

This stigma is actually one of the oldest known forms of prejudice held by man against another human being, with historical records pointing to its existence since the Neolithic period, when the crudest and most primitive methods were used to try to “cure” people who displayed symptoms of mental illness.

How Prevalent is Mental Illness in the US?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health issues and disorders are among the most common health issues in the US today.

  • At least 50% of all Americans will be diagnosed with one form of mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime
  • 1 in every 4 Americans will experience one form of mental illness in a given year
  • 1 in every 5 American children has either gone through or is currently afflicted with a serious form of mental illness
  • 1 in every 25 American adults currently deals with one form of serious mental illness, including major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or one form of anxiety-related issue
  • Mental health issues account for several of the top causes of disability cases in the US
  • At least 26% of Americans aged 18 and older are known to suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year
  • Many people who do have mental issues often suffer from more than one disorder at a given time
  • In the US, depressive illnesses have been documented to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders
  • At least 9.5% of American adults aged 18 and over have been diagnosed as suffering from a depressive illness each year
  • Most Americans who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, usually in the form of a depressive disorder, which could be coupled with a substance abuse disorder
  • At least 18% of Americans aged 18- 54 are diagnosed with one form of anxiety disorder in a given year, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and specific phobias such as social phobia and agoraphobia

Do Traits Like Masculinity Affect a Person’s Mental Health?

There are many cultures around the world that to this day still practice the erroneous belief that “boys don’t cry.” This is an example of what is known as “toxic masculinity,” or the misguided belief that masculinity dictates that men do not vent or show any kind of emotion that could be taken as a sign of weakness.

The traits often attributed to toxic masculinity include:

  • Maintaining a strong facade
  • Not showing signs of emotional weakness
  • Not seeking help even if it is badly needed
  • Deny that the person is already suffering from physical, emotional, or mental anguish or pain
  • Hiding signs of “vulnerability”

The misguided belief that seeking aid for mental or emotional distress makes a man less masculine has often resulted in even bigger issues later on. It is not uncommon that most men who exhibit signs of toxic masculinity also manifest emotional and mental instability at times, particularly when the emotional and mental stress they have has already passed their tolerance. This often leads to:

  • Inability to communicate properly
  • Depression
  • Increasing inclination to self-distance as emotional or mental anguish builds
  • Increased susceptibility to sudden emotional outbursts
  • Belligerence
  • Development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide ideation

What Complications Arise from Unaddressed Mental and Emotional Health Issues?

The most common complication that manifests in men who subscribe to the idea of toxic masculinity, or are unable to seek help or support for their mental and emotional issues is the development of a substance dependence. This is mostly seen in veterans or men who have been exposed to great conflict or violence and have not been able to process it completely.

This is why many combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from drug addiction or have an alcohol use disorder. This is because Instead of seeking professional help, most men find it much easier to find brief solace from the issues by getting high or drunk, as the act is quite private and no one will get to see them seeking professional help for their problems. In their twisted belief, this allows them to maintain a sense of masculinity.

This dependence on drugs or alcohol inevitably leads to another condition known as dual diagnosis, where the person who has a mental health issue also has either a drug or alcohol problem, or even both. Addiction treatment specialists note that at least half the number of people known to have mental disorders has a very high likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder at some point in their life.

Why Do Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders Occur Together?

Men's Mental Health Stigma Explained

A person with a mental health issue will not automatically develop a substance abuse disorder. This is particularly true with those who were able to seek treatment for their mental health issue early on.

People who suffer from one form of unaddressed mental, behavioral, or emotional issue, however, will have a high likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder than those who do not. At Jaywalker, we provide many forms of treatment based around strong principles. Our men’s alcohol rehab program in Carbondale, CO treats addiction, but it also put a major focus on men’s mental health. Some of the reasons given by men as to why they opted for substances instead of seeking professional help include:

Substances Give Temporary Inner Peace

For people who suffer from a mental health issue that manifests as delusions or hallucinations, sedatives are often prescribed so that their brainwave activity slows down and their sensitivity to certain stimuli becomes dulled. This gives them a temporary sense of peace, where the chaos and mental noise created by their hallucinations are silenced for a time.

Substances Allow Men to Experience Temporary Bliss

Men who prefer to stifle their mental and emotional issues will soon discover that they have a limit, and once this limit is passed, they begin to suffer from the serious effects of their unaddressed condition.

This could often lead to bigger problems like depression, anger management issues, inability to find peace and joy in life, and a host of other adverse effects. As such, men often find a quick escape through the brief euphoria given by certain substances and alcohol.

Substances Produce an Altered Mental State

Those who are unable to seek help due to men’s mental health stigma often develop a misguided notion that they suffer because of some imagined fault of theirs. As such, they begin to develop a form of self-hate that only gets worse over time. Alcohol and some substances often affect the cognitive functions of the brain that are associated with perception. This means that the one time men don’t hate themselves is when they are high or drunk.

General Lack of Understanding Regarding About Mental Health

In most cases, men practice toxic masculinity out of sheer ignorance. To many, seeking help is a sign of weakness and an admission to vulnerability, something that they see as being the opposite of their idea of masculinity.

This inability to see beyond the narrowminded view caused by toxic masculinity prevents most men to understand how they could be helped. What’s worse is that the same denial that fuels their ignorance regarding seeking help also fosters another form of denial, this one being the denial that they have a substance abuse disorder.

Let Jaywalker Help You Along the Path to Mental Health Recovery

Men's Mental Health Stigma Explained

Seeking help does not make you weak, less of a man, or even vulnerable. Seeking help shows that you have the strength to take the first step to understand what needs to be done to recover. Here at Jaywalker, we make a point to help people to remove the blocks that prevent them from making a full recovery, including the misguided notions created by social stigmas.

We can show you the way to your recovery, but you need to continue the walk yourself. Talk to us now.


author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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