Fewer men are seeking help for their mental health — yet they need it most. Let’s dive into the underlying issues — and possible solutions.
By Stephen Millioti
First things first: At Meru Health, we stand firmly against gender stereotypes and assumptions. Every person is different, as is their journey toward better health and wellbeing.
That said, when we delve into the data around mental health, we find some general trends in those who identify as male. Two of them, when taken in tandem, paint a troubling picture: Men are much less likely than women to take advantage of mental health services and are almost 4 times more likely than women to commit suicide.
What is stopping men from getting the help they clearly need? There’s no single reason, and not even agreement on the mix of reasons. At a population level, men tend to hold more negative attitudes toward the use of mental health services compared to women. Then again, these attitudes differ not just between genders but also between cultures. They can also be impacted by personal experience. (Researchers call this a bio-psycho-social framework.)
Regardless, it’s clear that the mental health space hasn’t done a great job of meeting men where they are, and antiquated attitudes about “acting like a man” have stigmatized care for so many people who need it. (If you’d like a deep dive on this topic, as well as tips on how to address it, download our e-book on men’s mental health or visit our resource page.)
“Antiquated attitudes about “acting like a man” have stigmatized care for so many people who need it.”
Besides the mental toll that “holding it all in” takes, there’s also a physical toll. Untreated mental health struggles are linked to physical ailments from hypertension to sleep disorders, and chronic emotional stress is an underlying factor in the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. The body and brain don’t act in isolation from each other.
Here at Meru Health, we believe that one step toward solving this crisis is a different type of care model: one that is less reliant on face-to-face discussions, that combines the mental with the physical, and that is more focused on skills building and self-paced practice.
It’s also important to approach this as a limited intervention with measurable results, rather than an open-ended process. Meru Health’s 12-week program is built around evidence-based guidelines and quantified steps that can appeal to people who might be put off by more nebulous models of care, regardless of how clinically validated those models might be.
Clearly there’s no single solution to the crisis in men’s mental health. But it’s also clear that we have to move past or at least supplement the traditional and dominant models of care.