As we rapidly approach Father’s Day, a day to celebrate and remember our dads and father figures in our life, it is essential to note that June also happens to be Men’s Health Month. Men’s Health Month brings awareness to the health issues all men face. Hosted by Men’s Health Network since 1992, the month is dedicated to enriching men’s health and wellness through a broad spectrum of national screening and educational campaigns.
Studies show that males are less likely to seek mental and physical health services than their female counterparts. One of the factors that contribute to this underuse of seeking professional help is the masculinity norms that our society wrongly portrays.
June is Men’s Health Month, dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of diseases among men and boys. It is well understood that men are less likely to focus on their physical and mental health due to toxic masculinity that has been ingrained in society for hundreds of years. As a result, men often suffer from depression and anxiety in silence and turn to illicit drugs and alcohol as harmful coping mechanisms and ways to numb their pain. Although Men’s Mental Health Month highlights the importance of male physical health such as prostate cancer, high blood pressure, colon cancer, testicular cancer, and diabetes; mental health among men is often overlooked.
Men’s Mental Health Matters
Mental health is a primary part of a man’s physical and emotional well-being; unfortunately, men’s mental health is often silenced in society. There is a catastrophic intersection of low rates of diagnosed and undiagnosed depression and high rates of suicide and substance misuse among the U.S. male population. Men are more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol in more significant quantities and are more likely than women to develop a substance use disorder (addiction). 11.5% of boys and men over 12 have a substance use disorder, compared to 6.4% of women and girls. Men chronically use nonmedical opioids at twice the rate of women (even though women are prescribed them more often), and more men die of prescription drug overdoses than women.
Substance Abuse And Mental Health Often Go Hand-In-Hand in Males
Men are not just at higher risk for a substance use disorder than women but are also at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders and are not as likely to seek treatment as females. Men are more likely to use external methods to cope with the inward turmoil and pain caused by depression and other mental health disorders. These external methods often include drugs, alcohol, and overworking.
- Nearly 1 in 10 men suffers from depression, meaning that over 6 million men suffer from depression each year.
- Men die by suicide at more than three times that of women.
- More than 19 million adults ages 18 to 54 have an anxiety disorder, with over 3 million men having either an anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, or another phobia.
- Ninety percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia by age 30 are men.
The Connection Between Toxic Masculinity and Substance Abuse/Mental Health Disorders
Toxic masculinity refers to actions that discourage displays of emotion other than anger in men while also encouraging behavior that will deem the male “dominant” in a given situation. Even as children, young boys who express feelings are compared to girls in a negative context.
Displaying traits of toxic masculinity can lead to numerous adverse outcomes, and adherence to rigid masculine norms may lead to:
- Problems with dating and interpersonal intimacy
- Greater depression and anxiety
- Abuse of substances
- Problems with interpersonal violence (sexual assault, spousal abuse)
- Greater health risk (high blood pressure)
- Greater overall psychological distress
Male Risk Factors Associated With Mental Health And Addiction
A range of factors can contribute to the development of mental health and substance abuse disorders in men. These include:
- Sexism/masculinity: Men who strongly conform to typical masculine norms may be more likely to have poorer mental health.
- Trauma: This could include extreme emotional events such as being sexually abused, experiencing combat, or being in high stress situations regularly (firefighters, soldiers or police officers). For example, 65% of men who are raped will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Witnessing a violent event or being in a war can also increase the risk of anxiety disorders like PTSD.
- Poor working conditions or a high workload: Work stress and a lack of social support have been associated with a higher likelihood of mental health issues in men
- Traditional gender roles: This can include feeling pressure to be a provider or societal norms that discourage men from talking about their feelings.
- Childhood abuse/family issues: Any detrimental problem that occurs in childhood can increase the risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.
- Loss of work: Unemployment and retirement are associated with an increased risk of depression in men. One in 7 men who lose their jobs become depressed.
- Separation and divorce: Often, men see themselves as providers and the ones to keep the family happy. Depression is more prevalent and more severe among divorced men.
- Financial issues: Economic factors are a top cause of stress for many people and could play a role in developing certain mental health disorders.
- Substance abuse: Men may be more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health issues, though such ‘self-medication’ can make things worse in the long run.
As treatment professionals, it is our job to reach out to men who are struggling internally and who are using illicit substances and alcohol to numb their pain. Men want to be respected, men want to provide for their families, men want to work hard, men want to stay healthy, and men want to be loyal to their friends. If you are a male and are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, we want to help you.
We at AKUA Mind and Body wish to treat you, the individual, and not just your condition. We want to break the mold, set the standard, and be role models for the rest of the addiction treatment industry. We want to invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment. AKUA Mind and Body is a full-service addiction and mental health treatment center across California. We specialize in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders. We offer detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, and behavioral therapy approaches at all levels of care, ranging from residential settings to outpatient treatment. We pride ourselves on having a compassionate and knowledgeable treatment staff who cares about each client and their family.