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Men and Mental Illness: May is Mental Health Month

Men and Mental Illness

The Silent Crisis

Men’s mental health is often called The Silent Crisis, largely because of the heavy layers of stigma that prevent the discussion and treatment of life-threatening depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Spearhead Recovery is proud to recognize Mental Health Month this May. In observance, we have prepared this comprehensive guide to men’s mental illness. By openly communicating about issues specific to men and encouraging an open dialogue, we hope to do our part in dismantling the stigma.  

Mental Illness and Men: The Data

Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, there are many areas of concern unique to men. Of these, the statistics surrounding suicide are the most alarming. A man kills himself every 20 minutes in the United States – this means that men make up over 75 percent of suicide victims nationwide. The rates worsen in rural areas, including states like Wyoming, New Mexico, and Alaska. Certain groups are particularly at risk, including American Indians, gay men, and veterans. Substance use disorders also affect men at higher rates than the general population, occurring at a rate of 3 to 1 when compared to women. Studies show that many men begin using drugs or alcohol in response to stressful life events, such as divorce or unemployment. Again, these rates are disproportionately higher for veterans and American Indians.  

Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Men

Many mental illnesses affect men and women equally, but it’s widely understood that men may be more reluctant to seek treatment or discuss their feelings. For this reason, symptoms can differ from those experienced by women with mental health issues. While a woman may openly exhibit her depression as sadness, a man could hide his emotions and appear to be angry or even aggressive to an outside observer. Use the below criteria, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, to see if you or a loved one are displaying any warning signs of mental illness.

  • Anger, aggression, or irritability
  • Changes in mood, appetite, or energy level
  • Disordered sleep habits: too much or not enough
  • Issues concentrating, feelings of restlessness
  • Worry or stress
  • Cravings for alcohol or drugs, or feelings that they’re necessary to get through the day
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or plans
  • A lack of emotions: feeling “flat” or having trouble feeling anything at all
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Ongoing digestive issues, headaches, or bodily pain
  • Thinking obsessively or acting compulsively
  • Experiencing thoughts or behaviors that interfere with home or work life
  • Having unusual thoughts or behaviors that concern others


Barriers to Treatment

Research suggests that men are much less likely to utilize mental health services when compared to women. This is especially true for men of color, including Black, Latino, and Asian men. Many theories attempt to explain this phenomenon. Some believe that this is because the treatments themselves are not curated to men’s needs. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Historically, treatment centers and mental health services were modeled almost exclusively after the symptoms and needs of men, meaning that high-quality, tailored care is available to you right now. A much more likely explanation is the culture surrounding masculinity and emotions: believing that a man shouldn’t feel anything, and if he does, he shouldn’t let it bring him down or ask for help. These societal pressures can change the way men express themselves. Social norms dictate that men should be strong and silent: never voicing their emotions or even admitting to having them in the first place. They also encourage men to be relentlessly self-reliant, solving all their own problems without needing outside assistance. These factors combine to create massive barriers to treatment. Men are much more likely to suffer in silence, even when wrestling with addiction and thoughts of suicide. Luckily, times are changing and there is hope on the horizon.  

Integrated Mental Illness and Addiction Treatment

Today, men are seeking help for their mental health concerns at a rate never seen before. As public pushback encourages open discussion of depression and anxiety, the stigma of mental illness is lessening every day. Spearhead Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for our dual diagnosis patients, addressing both mental health and addiction issues that can hold you back in life. Give us a call today at 888-483-0528 to begin creating your individualized treatment plan.