Like most people, there have been times in my life where I was really down, even depressed. Things in my life just weren’t going the way I wanted them to go and most often for me, that boiled down to my love life.
I remember one time in particular when I was going through a break up and was battling anxiety and depression to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on much nor could I eat or sleep much at all. It felt like the emotional pain would never go away and I just continued to isolate myself and ruminate on my problems more and more.
Finally, my best friend called me and asked me if I were okay. My response was, “I’m good bro.”
I’m good bro? Why in the hell did I say that when I clearly wasn’t good. As a matter of fact, I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I had lost several pounds from not eating, laid in bed praying for sleep to take the pain away, but the anxiety kept me awake with racing thoughts and fear. I was in pretty bad shape, yet my response was, I’m good bro.
Even then I wondered, why did I say that? Why didn’t I just tell him what was going on with me? The answer was because I didn’t want to appear weak. I didn’t want to appear emasculated. I didn’t want to burden anyone. I didn’t want anyone, especially another man to know that I was depressed. I felt shame in that. That shame kept me from asking for help. It nearly killed me.
From my experience, depression has a way of sneaking in, unassuming and nonthreatening. It has a way of making you feel comfortable with it, almost like an old friend or warm blanket, until it starts to suffocate you. Only then do most people realize that they are in danger and need help. Sadly, too many people realize it too late and pay the ultimate price.
Still as I was getting suffocated by depression, I muttered, “I’m good bro”, and effectively rejected any help my friend could have offered.
As a mental health professional, what I have learned over the years is that most men who suffer from anxiety, depression and stress will also respond “I’m good bro” when they really aren’t.
Men don’t like to talk about their feelings and are slow to ask for help. For many men it takes thoughts of suicide to compel them to reach out for help which usually means they have been suffering alone for quite a while.
While these men are suffering and attempting to “hold it together”, their suffering not only has negatively affects on them, but also on their work performance, parenting ability and relationships in general.
Men like to think of depression and anxiety as problems women have, but men and women both suffer from these common problems. It may look differently in men than it does in women as men tend to isolate themselves more, become less motivated, become angry, aggressive or turn to drugs and alcohol more.
Reasons Men Don’t Talk About Their Mental Health
There are many reasons men don’t talk about their mental health issues, but according to one study, the top reasons are:
- ‘I’ve learnt to deal with it’ (40%)
- ‘I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone’ (36%)
- ‘I’m too embarrassed’ (29%)
- ‘There’s negative stigma around this type of thing’ (20%)
- ‘I don’t want to admit I need support’ (17%)
- ‘I don’t want to appear weak’ (16%)
- ‘I have no one to talk to’ (14%)
When men do want to talk about their feelings, most report that they would prefer to talk to their romantic partner, but not everyone has a romantic partner and even those who do may be uncomfortable feeling vulnerable. That’s why it is important that men feel comfortable asking for professional help if needed.
In order for us to get men to feel comfortable seeking help, it’s important that we normalize men’s mental health problems much in the way that we have normalized treatment for erectile dysfunction problems. When we do this we remove the stigma surrounding men’s mental health problems. By helping men feel comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings, we not only positively impact their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.