How Mental Health Stigma Affects Men And What We Can Do

If you are a man suffering from a mental health disorder, chances are that you may have experienced the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. 

It keeps many men with a mental illness from reaching out for help when they need it the most.

In a 2017 survey by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, they found that the death by suicide rate for men was 3.54 percent higher than that of women. Mental Health America suggests that almost 6 million men in the US fall prey to depression every year. 

Statistics show that depression and suicide are the leading causes of death among men, but still, they are far less likely to seek help than women.

Why is this so? In this article, we will go through some explanations and find ways of improving the situation.

What Is Mental Health Stigma?

Stigma refers to someone viewing you in a negative way because of a personal trait or distinguishing characteristic that you possess. Sadly, negative attitudes towards people with mental health disorders can be rampant in our society.

Stigma usually results in discrimination. It may be obvious and direct or unintentional or subtle. Someone avoiding you because they think you may be unstable or dangerous due to your illness or making negative remarks about it is a common form of discrimination. In fact, you may even start judging yourself.

Here are the commonly observed effects of perceived stigma:

  • Feeling hesitant to seek help

  • Lesser opportunities for work and social stigma

  • Bullying, harassment, or physical violence

  • Lack of understanding by loved ones

The Stigma Men Face

In a 2018 report by WHO, experts highlighted the effects of cultural and internalized stigma around mental health. The report regarded it as one of the major obstacles to men accepting that they need help.

Described in several media as a silent killer and a sleeper issue with chilling statistics, mental illness among men is surrounded by the public stigma that requires immediate attention.

Among this group, male participants had a higher incidence of holding views such as: “A mentally ill person with depression is violent and dangerous,” and “Men with depression could get rid of it if they wanted.”

Of the 360 mentally ill individuals with a history of depression or suicidal ideation, more male than female participants said that they would feel reluctant about getting therapy for depression. 

Moreover, men tend to struggle more to open up with their family and friends about mental health struggles. Psychiatry suggests that talking about a mental health condition isn’t something that would come up readily in certain social environments.

The Burden Of Toxic Masculinity

In a 2016 study, researchers from The University of British Columbia (UBC) explain that traditional and prescriptive ideas about gender are somehow part of the factors causing mental health illnesses in men. This is also probably the reason why men experience reluctance in seeking professional help.

Another study probing the factors related to men with a mental health problem or mental illness suggested that out of the 541 respondents with no direct experience of depression or suicidal ideation, more than one-third admitted holding stigmatizing beliefs regarding a mental health problem in men.

What’s more, it’s not just reaching out for help that men usually struggle with. Recent research reveals that some men with a mental health problem or mental illness have a harder time connecting with their peers.

The toxic and age-old model of masculinity may be the reason behind the underreporting of symptoms of depression in men. Not just that, traditional masculine traits can also lead to increased rates of depression and suicide.

In most cases, when the harmful impact results in an increase in depressive symptoms, substance abuse may also follow. The problem at hand requires addressing men’s perception of seeking help as a society. 

How To Cope With The Stigma

To cope with mental health stigmas, you can adopt the following ways. 

Don’t let mental illness stigma create shame and self-doubt

Stigma doesn’t always come from the people around you. You may also consider your condition as a sign of personal weakness. 

Seeking help and counseling, and connecting with others having a similar mental illness stigma can encourage you to overcome destructive self-judgment and gain self-esteem.

Get professional treatment

Most men are reluctant to admit that they need mental health treatment. You shouldn’t let the fear of your peers’ reaction keep you from seeking help. 

Medical experts can provide relief by diagnosing the problem and providing mental health care.

Join a support group

Many local groups and mental health services offer programs and resources that can help reduce mental health stigma by educating people with mental illness. 

Some state agencies also offer programs that focus on vocational rehabilitation and support for men with a mental illness.

Speak out against mental illness and public stigma

Feel free to express your opinions regarding public stigma at public events and on social media platforms. It can help create a healthy environment and instill courage in other men facing similar disorders. 

How We Can Reduce The Stigma

In order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, people need to recognize mental health challenges and know that professional treatment is available.

Psychiatry suggests that people should be aware of the fact that an untreated mental health disorder can translate into physical ailments in no time. It occurs especially when the patient uses alcohol or other substances for self-medication.

Long-term alcohol abuse has a physical downside. It may lead to:

  • Cirrhosis

  • Bleeding problems

  • Gastritis

  • Psychiatric disorder

  • Changes in the brain

According to medical experts, raising awareness, and educating the masses can play a significant role in providing help to people with a mental health issue.

Stay in touch with your loved ones and make sure that they don’t feel hesitant in reaching out for help. You can also get work to get rid of negative stereotypes, negative stigma, and a negative belief about a patient with drug addiction.

Asking For Help

If you’re anxious that the people you care about may be struggling with a mental health illness, or you believe that you yourself need treatment, experts recommend looking for these signs that suggest a need for medical assistance.

  • Abrupt changes in mood

  • Poor work performance

  • Weight changes

  • Sadness, anhedonia, or hopelessness 

Physical symptoms of mental health disorders include:

  • Headaches 

  • Stomach issues

  • Draining energy

So, if you notice any of the above-listed signs and symptoms, try to set an appointment with your primary health care provider or a mental health professional right away. You should also get in touch with a mental health advocate if you have been using drugs or drinking alcohol. 


People’s judgments are mostly based on a lack of understanding instead of authentic information based on scientific facts. 

It’s key that you learn to accept your illness and acknowledge the steps required to seek help or formal treatment. Besides, helping raise awareness and educating others can also make a huge difference.

If you come across any of the symptoms listed above in yourself or a person you love, experts recommend helping them understand that reaching out for help is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

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  1. Ogrodniczuk, John et al. “Men’s mental health: Spaces and places that work for men.” Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien vol. 62,6 (2016): 463-4.
  2. McKenzie, Sarah K., et al. “Masculinity, social connectedness, and mental health: Men’s diverse patterns of practice.” American journal of men’s health 12.5 (2018): 1247-1261.

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