Men’s mental health: It’s high time to talk now

Why we need to talk about Men’s Mental Health

There are millions who suffer from various men’s mental health conditions where some seek treatment while most of them try to survive in silence.

1 in 7 Indians suffered from mental health issues like anxiety, depression before the Pandemic, now obviously the number of cases has increased due to the current situation according to the latest research conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Depression alone affected 45.7 million people and meanwhile, anxiety disorders affected 44.9 million people.

Men’s Mental health

It was estimated that nearly 250 Indian men died by suicide every day in the year 2018, a figure that was more than double the number of women. 

The figure has definitely increased since then because more than 70% of callers to India’s national mental health helpline, KIRAN, since its launch date September 2020, have been men, a recent report revealed.

Multiple types of research have revealed that men with various mental illnesses are less likely to have received mental health treatment which poses interesting questions such as: are men truly experiencing fewer mental health problems or are they more likely to ignore them hoping that they will go away eventually?

“Most men get affected by financial issues, followed by work, love & relationships and then health. In this, marriage usually acts as a boost to mental health as you live with a companion, a friend that reduces the chance of depression. However, marital strife, divorce, or in some cases death of the spouse can disrupt these functions of marriage. With changing times, the expectations of men and women from a marriage or a relationship are also changing fast where many struggles to accept these changes, and many are harassed by their wife and her relatives and are not at peace, either at home or outside”, says Jaipur based Naturopathy Doctor and Healer Shashi Bala Sharma.

“Now, the biggest challenge for men is that they should accept the reality and not escape from it as there are many who think they are supposed to be rock solid or macho all the time — even when they are in pain both physically and emotionally. For many, it would be unimaginable, intolerable for anyone to know they were battling anxiety, depression, or got stuck by their emotions

In fact, many also seem to believe that because they are not physically ill they are not truly sick. Such wrong beliefs keep them from getting the help they need and can negatively impact their mental health and prevent them from reaching out to others. Also, the outcome of not addressing such mental health concerns at the right time can cause unusual behaviour such as substance abuse, frustration, and inability to concentrate and those responses can get worse if they go unchecked” she added.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this and we should not give up on trying to start a conversation with the men we care about.

So, watch out for these 10 signs that might give us a better picture of the state of men’s mental health:

  1. Some men often channel their pain as anger and aggression where the anger is actually the result of something else below the surface.

  2. Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs to self-soothe.

  3. Reckless behaviour or taking unnecessary risks to cover up insecurity and feeling out of place.

  4. Lack of sleep, changes in appetite, looking ‘not good’ in ‘several ways’.

  5. Changes in daily habits or routines that negatively impact personal, social or work life.

  6. Avoiding people, expressing disinterest in favourite activities.

  7. Complaining of physical symptoms without a clear cause.

  8. Feeling like a loser, expressing themselves as hopeless, pointless and thoughts like the world would be better off without them.

  9. A major change in circumstances e.g. unemployment, loss of job, breakdown of marriage, retirement, failed exams and any kind of discomfort or disappointment.

  10. Showing actual symptoms of mental illnesses like Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    Men’s Mental health
    People connecting jigsaw pieces of a head together

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Follow these tips to talk to men about their mental health issues:

  1. Find the right space at right time: Opening up about mental health is not an easy task especially for men. Face-to-face or an ‘intervention’ way conversations may often feel intense and intimidating. If you are willing to encourage a loved one to open up to you about his mental health issues, make sure to do it in an environment that’s slightly more relaxed.

  2. Create a comfort zone: Don’t take him for granted and give him the attention he needs from you. Going for a walk or a ride to have a conversation is a good way to make it a less intense issue. Also, try multitasking like talking and doing something at the same time. But if he really wants you to listen to him than, he might want to have a proper chat, so look out for the hint and when the opportunity comes, sit and do listen to everything seriously.

  3. Make sure you’re the right person to talk to: It may feel unreasonable for many people but it is one of the essential parts of the conversation because openness and connection require trust as in some cases, sharing is not always caring. If you’re are not good at handling such situations, or not on good terms with the concerned person then it may not be a good idea to have a ‘conversation’.

  4. Help unconditionally: If you’re doing this, do it with all your heart and not for the sake of anything. His life may be literally on your hands and your act and guidance can bring a lot of difference. Make all the efforts to help him even if you have to ask him time and again if he is ok or not maybe just because your intuition says that something is wrong with him. Don’t just give up if they brush you off with ‘I’m fine or yell at you saying ‘leave me alone.Men’s Mental health

  5. Share your experiences:  Sometimes this works like magic. Many men don’t like to talk about their mental health issues as it is a difficult and uncomfortable subject that they’re probably not used to talking about it. Try sharing your own same experiences first, so that they might be able to relate to your story as it shows that they are not alone in this and also it creates a two-way street where you both are able to express your vulnerabilities in a supportive way.

  6. Encourage them to seek professional help: When talking to a loved one about their challenges, there will be some issues you don’t have the answers to or know how to address properly – and that’s okay. You don’t have to have all the answers and one of the best things you can do for someone you care about is encourage them to seek professional help.

  7. Never panic:  You might be in any situation where things can go completely out of control, and you may start dreading but try not to lose your calm. If your husband, partner or friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, don’t panic, just hear them out and know why exactly they want to take such drastic steps. In many cases, those who talk about committing suicide, are less likely to go through with it because of obvious reasons. Listen to the first, and then seek professional help which can be through Pranic healing, counselling, meditation, Yoga or any other healing therapies recommended by an expert.

  8. Let him talk when he finally decides: There’s a perception that many men don’t like talking about the feelings and troubles they go through, but the fact is that they talk to only those who listen to them. Studies say that even well-wishing spouses or girlfriends can sometimes find it hard to see a man in the struggle. Sometimes, men often feel they shouldn’t ask for help as they don’t want to burden someone else with their problems.

“Coping with mental health issues are hard so treatment is a must to let you lead a productive life.  For men – you have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about and you have to understand that these conditions are illnesses, not weaknesses and the same goes for any addictions if you might have.

Many men struggle to communicate what they’re feeling and figuring out how to talk about it so try some first steps like getting medical assistance, find healthier ways of sharing your feelings to someone you can trust, manage your stress, get regular exercise (very important), read books, watch good movies and tell someone right away if you have any thoughts of harming yourself”, Sharma said.

Take care.

Helpline numbers if required:

Contact details for mental health support in India can be accessed (here)

If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit your nearest hospital or contact AASRA on +91-22-27546669 or Sneha India on +91-44-24640050 helplines.

A list of other suicide helplines can be accessed (here)

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