If you’ve ever met me, you know that I love discussing and working with feminist issues. Since feminism is all about equality between women, men, and those who identify otherwise, that makes the mental health gap in treatment for men a feminist concern.
It’s long been believed that men experience mental health concerns at a lower rate than women. That’s now being questioned, as we’re learning that men are much less likely to seek out care than women. In our society, there is still much stigma attached to men seeking help for anything, particularly their mental health. They’re told “Boys don’t cry” and “Pick yourself up by the bootstraps.” Of course, the many intersectional identities (e.g., Black, White, gay, veteran, etc.) men hold can make seeking and receiving treatment even more challenging.
Because we likely have not studied men adequately in psychology, we may be missing their different presentations of symptoms within disorders. For example, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is often considered a disorder affecting women by those who have less knowledge. Men displaying symptoms that fit the criteria for BPD may be misdiagnosed with another disorder, and provided with inadequate treatment.
In my professional experience, it’s very hard to get a man into therapy, and even harder to keep them in. (And, yes, this extends beyond financial and other barriers). I’m thrilled when men allow themselves to be vulnerable to the process of therapy, leading to major changes.
As I’m interacting more with Gen Z, I notice how much more accepting they are. I hope that trends are beginning to change, and that men seeking mental health care will feel more and more open to (and able to) receive support.
If I could blast out a message to men, it would be this: If you’re feeling badly, you don’t have to carry that burden yourself. There are people who are trained to help you, and it is not a sign of weakness to accept help from them. It is a sign of strength to notice that you are not at your best and it takes hard work to make powerful changes in your emotional health and overall life. You probably have no idea how much better you can feel than you do right now.
Check this out: The American Psychological Association (APA) has published guidelines for mental health providers to adapt therapy to better meet the needs of men.