breaking the stigma around men's mental health

Men's Health Month: Breaking the stigma around men's mental health

June is Men's Health Month, and we didn't want to let it pass without addressing a critically important aspect of overall health: mental health.

Men's mental health is an often overlooked and under-discussed topic, yet it is an incredibly important one. It can be difficult for men to open up about their mental health struggles due to  the surrounding stigma and feelings of shame. 

However, it is essential that men have a safe space to talk about their mental health and seek help when needed without judgment or fear. By creating a more open dialogue about men's mental health, we can help break the stigma and ensure that all men have access to the resources they need to stay healthy.

Normalizing men's mental health struggles

Before jumping into why there's a stigma around men's mental health, we want to normalize the existence of mental health struggles among men. 

So, we're highlighting several high-profile men who have courageously shared their personal stories of mental health challenges. Hopefully, these accounts help humanize the issue:

  1. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: The acclaimed actor and former professional wrestler has openly discussed his battle with depression, highlighting the importance of seeking help and speaking out about mental health.
  2. Michael Phelps: The legendary Olympic swimmer has been candid about his struggles with anxiety and depression, using his platform to raise awareness and advocate for mental health resources.
  3. Prince Harry: As a member of the British royal family, Prince Harry has used his influence to promote mental health conversations by sharing his experiences with grief, anxiety, and therapy.
  4. Jon Hamm: The Mad Men star has been open about his journey with chronic depression and how therapy and medication have played crucial roles in managing his condition.

We also want to applaud our very own male meditation expert on the Balance app, Ofosu Jones-Quartey, for being brave enough to talk publicly about his mental health struggles. Listen to his story about a recent social media post, and the resulting fear from his family, in this one-minute video:

These powerful stories from influential figures serve as an important reminder that anyone can experience mental health challenges, regardless of their background or achievements. By speaking up about their struggles, these men help normalize and de-stigmatize men's mental health.

Societal expectations and pressures that fuel the stigma around men's mental health

Why should we need to normalize these mental health struggles in the first place? No one bats an eye when, for example, a professional athlete misses a game due to physical health concerns. But if it were for a mental health reason, it'd be the news cycle's top story. That's because the stigma around men's mental health is very real.

Societal expectations and pressures have long played a role in perpetuating the stigma around men's mental health. Traditional gender roles often dictate that men should be strong, stoic, and independent, leading many to believe that seeking help or expressing vulnerability are signs of weakness. 

Furthermore, societal norms often pressure men to be successful providers for their families, which can lead to heightened stress levels and a feeling of inadequacy if they struggle to meet those expectations. 

The media also plays a significant role in shaping societal perceptions of masculinity, often perpetuating harmful stereotypes that can negatively impact men's mental health. From movies to advertising, men are traditionally portrayed as emotionally detached, mentally tough, and physically strong.

All this toxic masculinity can prevent men from recognizing their emotional needs and discourage them from seeking support when they need it most. The fear of being judged or ridiculed for not conforming to these standards can exacerbate existing mental health issues and even create new ones.

Listen to Coach Ofosu continue his story and reflect on some of these pressures in this second quick video:

By acknowledging and challenging these societal pressures, we can work together to break the stigma surrounding men's mental health and encourage more open conversations about emotional well-being.

The importance of open communication among men

Fostering open communication by and among men is essential for breaking the stigma around men's mental health. Encouraging honest conversations about feelings, emotions, and mental well-being can help dismantle harmful stereotypes and create a supportive environment where men feel comfortable discussing their challenges.

When men openly share their experiences, they not only empower themselves but also inspire others to do the same. This collective vulnerability can lead to a deeper understanding of mental health issues, paving the way for stronger support networks and increased empathy.

To promote open communication among men, consider the following strategies:

  • Create safe spaces: Establish judgment-free zones where men can discuss their feelings and struggles without fear of ridicule or dismissal.
  • Listen actively: Display active listening by giving full attention to the speaker, offering empathetic responses, and avoiding interruptions.
  • Encourage emotional expression: Normalize expressing emotions by sharing personal stories and validating others' experiences.
  • Offer resources: Provide information on professional help, support groups, and other resources that cater specifically to men's mental health needs.

By fostering open communication among men and providing them with the tools they need to navigate their emotional landscapes, we can help break down barriers and contribute to a more inclusive society that values mental health for all.

Overcoming fear of judgment: Encouraging men to seek professional help

Another critical aspect of breaking the stigma around men's mental health is encouraging men to seek professional help when needed, without fear of judgment or ridicule. By normalizing the act of seeking assistance from mental health professionals, we can create a supportive environment that acknowledges mental well-being as an essential component of overall health.

Watch this final quick video from Ofosu, hearing him discuss his work with a therapist and his fear of sharing that information with his parents:

Understanding that hesitation and fear or judgment, here are some strategies you can use to encourage the men in your life to seek professional help:

  • Redefine strength: Emphasize that admitting vulnerability and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Recognize that taking charge of one's mental health demonstrates courage and self-awareness.
  • Share success stories: Highlight positive examples of men who have benefited from therapy or other forms of professional help. These stories can serve as inspiration for others struggling with similar issues.
  • Address misconceptions: Clarify common misconceptions about therapy and counseling, such as the belief that they are only for severe cases or that discussing emotions is unproductive. Educate on the wide range of benefits these services can provide.
  • Offer anonymity: Encourage the exploration of anonymous resources, such as helplines or online support groups, if they're initially hesitant about sharing their struggles openly.
  • Promote early intervention: Stress the importance of addressing mental health concerns early on, rather than waiting until they become overwhelming. Explain that timely intervention can lead to more effective treatment and better long-term outcomes.

By actively promoting the value and benefits of professional help, we can empower men to prioritize their mental well-being and seek assistance when necessary, ultimately challenging societal norms and contributing to a more mentally healthy society.

Free resources to support men's mental health

There's no doubt that increasing communication and support for men's mental health is important. But taking the first step can feel daunting, so we're suggesting two accessible starting points. 

First, you can watch the full conversation about men's mental health between Balance meditation experts Ofosu Jones-Quartey and Leah Santa Cruz, as well as a special guest, on YouTube; this is where the three video clips above were pulled from. 

Second, you can download the Balance app on iOS or Android—and/or encourage the men in your life to download it—and use it free (and anonymously) for an entire year. It's packed with research-backed guidance to support mental health. But don't just take our word for it. Here's what some of the men in the Balance community are saying:

"Just started the free-year trial and I love it! Only 3 meditations in and I already feel so much more relaxed and grounded. Definitely try this!"
"Suffering through a bad breakup with a lot of anxiety and self-loathing, this feels like a raft in an otherwise vast and murky ocean."
"Great app to help you sleep, focus, and relax. I often listen to it to fall asleep, but I also use it at times while working to tune out noise."
"It has assisted dramatically in augmenting my thought processes and mind-body connection. Picking up meditation is a little daunting, but this app helps you gradually get into it and build a habit around it."
"I had a prolonged period of anxiety. Then I found this app, and these meditations completely erased my anxiety."

Together, we can break the stigma around men's mental health and help men find and access the resources they may need to live healthier, happier lives.

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