The Importance of Men’s Mental Health
By Laura Niedringhaus, Casa Pacifica Clinical Outreach Manager
& James Freeman, MA, CYC-P, Casa Pacifica Director of Training
Mental health is such a vital component of overall wellness but is often overlooked as a negligible determinant of our health. More than 42 million Americans experience a mental illness each year. June is Men’s Health Month so it’s the perfect time to explore the critical mental health needs of men as part of their overall health and wellness.
“I want to be the most confident, strong person I can be for my son but at some point, I might falter and that’s fine. Men must realize there’s no shame in feeling vulnerable or putting yourself out there because everyone’s going to be vulnerable at some point.” Shea Emry – Professional Canadian Football Player.
Men’s Mental Health Facts:
- Suicide is the most common cause of death in men under 49
- 3 out of 4 suicides are by men
- Nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety, but less than half seek treatment
- Over 6 million men suffer from depression per year – Male depression often goes undiagnosed
Men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse, and stressful life events due to:
- Reluctance to talk
- Social norms
- Downplaying symptoms
Sometimes this hesitancy to reach out for help is because of the fear in admitting the need for help. Other times it’s because we haven’t had role models in our lives show how to be vulnerable and accept support from others. Culture plays a role, too, in perpetuating the myths of extreme masculine independence and self-sufficiency. Regardless of the reason, it takes incredible strength to be vulnerable, to speak up, and to surround oneself with others when it is necessary.
“I thought maybe I could help people with awareness, help men get the strength and courage… I have run into people who have made fun of me, some of my colleagues. I’ve had people try to make light of it. Depression is not something you make light of. It’s serious,” Terry Bradshaw, Former NFL quarterback.
A number of well-known men are now speaking out and advocating for men’s mental health and the importance of seeking help.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – Actor, producer and professional wrestler. “Struggle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level or another,” – Dwayne Johnson talks openly about his struggles with depression and his mother’s suicide attempt when he was a teenager. “I was devastated and depressed and crying constantly at one point. Took me a long time to realize it, but the key is to not be afraid to open up. I found that with depression one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it… I wish I had someone at that time who could have just pulled me aside and [said], ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”
Michael Phelps – Competitive Swimmer, most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 total medals, 23 gold, opens up about depression and recalls moments of not wanting to be alive. “I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody. That was a struggle for me … I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn’t do it alone. Since that day [I opened up about my emotions], it’s been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy life.”
“I will never forget that feeling of support. It saved my life. They kept saying, ‘It’s gonna be O.K. Let’s just get you some help.'” Keyon Dooling, [former] NBA player, Boston Celtics
Kevin Love – Professional basketball player, Cleveland Cavaliers forward and one of the most outspoken NBA players on mental health. Last year, Love described a panic attack he had shortly after halftime of a game against the Atlanta Hawks. He spoke in detail about his mental health issues. “There’s so many layers to treatment for mental illness. I just want to continue to keep learning and inspiring people to live healthy lives. It’s been healing for a lot of people, but it’s been healing for me as well. It’s been liberating. It’s made me feel more evolved.”
Shea Emry – Professional Canadian Football Player. All-star and 2x Grey Cup Champion, Founder and CEO of WellMen Project. Shea tackled his depression head-on. “I want to be the most confident, strong person I can be for my son but at some point, I might falter and that’s fine. Men must realize there’s no shame in feeling vulnerable or putting yourself out there because everyone’s going to be vulnerable at some point.”
Ron Artest AKA Metta World Peace – Former NBA player and outspoken advocate on the importance of mental health among athletes. He even thanked his psychiatrist on national television immediately after the Lakers captured the NBA title. Released in 2019, the film, Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story, shines a spotlight on his often feared and misunderstood behavior, both on and off the basketball court, and his mental health struggles that began in his youth.
Keyon Dooling – Former NBA player who, at his lowest point, suffered a breakdown in 2012 which promoted his recovery process after checking into a mental institution. Keyon was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from years of repressed memories of sexual abuse as a child. He later wrote that the sexual abuse forever changed him. “I told myself, at seven years old: You have to be tough. You have to be so tough that nobody can ever hurt you.” Since leaving the NBA, he has become an advocate for sexual abuse victims.
Terry Bradshaw – NFL quarterback and sports announcer, US 4x Super Bowl Champion, 2x Super Bowl MVP suffered frequent panic attacks after games. He was diagnosed with clinical depression in the late 1990’s. “I thought maybe I could help people with awareness, help men get the strength and courage… I have run into people who have made fun of me, some of my colleagues. I’ve had people try to make light of it. Depression is not something you make light of. It’s serious.”
Making the decision to start a conversation with a friend or loved one about mental health takes courage and strength. It’s likely that someone you know is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety and you have the power to make a difference in their lives. Take action for Men’s Mental Health Month by looking out for those that you love.
Recognizing the signs that you or someone you love may have a mental disorder is the first step toward getting treatment. The earlier that treatment begins, the more effective it can be.
- Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless or on edge
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Aches, headaches and digestive problems without a clear cause
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
Mental disorders can be treated; If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor or visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
Casa Pacifica and Camino a Casa’s whole-family treatment approach emphasizes the importance of the mental wellness of each family member. Lasting mental wellness begins with honest conversations and support. When children see their parents are able to ask for help with mental issues beyond their control, it shows them true courage and that there is no shame in showing vulnerability. Men’s mental health seems to be finding its way to the spotlight, stirring conversations and starting change – hopefully setting the groundwork for the next generation of men to be comfortable advocating for their own mental health.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Editor’s note: Mental health affects everyone in all walks of life, including the author of this article, Laura Niedringhaus, Casa Pacifica’s Clinical Outreach Manager. She lost her father, beloved Fred Niedringhaus in 2006, as a result of untreated mental health disorders, including depression.
Infographic: Mental Health For Men (2020) https://www.mhanational.org/infographic-mental-health-men
MindWise Innovations. (2020) https://www.mindwise.org/blog/uncategorized/a-critical-look-at-mens-mental-health/