The Hartford insurance company recently took a targeted look at what’s been called the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 6 million men experience depression every year. One problem, The Hartford said, is that people generally assume women experience more mental health challenges than men, but in fact mental health conditions are prevalent at similar rates among both sexes. “However, male mental health has not been adequately researched and clinicians tend to overlook signs of stress in males.”
What to Know about Men’s Mental Health
A common problem related to decisions about seeking mental health assistance is that many men are unsure that what they are experiencing emotionally is actually a signal that they require help. Both men and women encounter and experience mental health challenges quite individually. But certain trends have been widely observed. For example, when men and women experience depression, male symptoms are more likely to be aggression and anger, while female symptoms tend more toward sadness or hopelessness.
Other common signs of mental health struggles in men cited by The Hartford include:
- Mood changes
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to concentrate
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Feeling emotionally “numb”
- Reckless behavior
- Thoughts of suicide
Although it is common for men to experience mental health challenges, they are less likely than women to receive help for mental health conditions, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But if men are hesitant to share or even acknowledge how they are feeling, they may just push feelings aside. Unfortunately, this often allows the negative feelings to grow rather than go away.
For instance. while the COVID-19 pandemic affected virtually everyone’s mental equilibrium, it is known to have affected men’s mental health in specific ways. A 2020 Cleveland Clinic survey of adult men found that 77% of them experienced increased stress during the pandemic, with almost 60% reporting they felt isolated. But true to form for their gender, fully two-thirds of men reported rarely sharing their feelings about how the pandemic affected their mental health.
The Negatives of Neglecting to Get Care
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says neglecting or even resisting to get care for mental health struggles is one reason why men are 3.5 times as likely as women to die by suicide. “Depression can be hard to talk about—so hard that a lot of men end up silently struggling for years, only to reach out when they’ve hit rock bottom,” explained a NAMI post.
Along with the symptoms itemized above by The Hartford as possible signs that you may be experiencing a significant mental health condition, NAMI lists the following:
- Overwhelming worry or fear
- Feeling extremely sad
- Increased anger and irritability
- No longer wanting to socialize and/or not wanting to see your friends
- Changes in eating habits
- Fluctuations in sex drive
- Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
- Headaches, stomachaches, body aches without medical causes
- Having difficulty carrying out everyday tasks
NAMI emphasizes that help is available if you need it. Especially important, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. You can also visit NAMI.org or call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264).
NAMI adds that it’s important to understand that you do not necessarily need to be in an acute crisis to talk to a therapist. Therapy can be used preventatively as well, to better understand what you’re experiencing, to “get a grip,” even to appreciate that you are not alone in what you’re going through. Also, if you establish a relationship with a therapist, you’ll know whom to call when you feel a need for support.
The Colorado Behavioral Health Administration (CBHA) reports that 3 in 10 Coloradans are in need of mental health or substance use disorder care. That equates to about 1.5 million people. CBHA notes that “Similar to other health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, a mental illness can interfere with a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.”
Some of the better known and more serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.
Understanding how behavioral health can affect an individual’s overall health, the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health has created LADDERS—Licensing and Designation Database and Electronic Records System—to enable quickly connecting healthcare providers and individuals to behavioral health services. LADDERS includes information on the effects of substance use on health, and resources and links on substance use issues, news and research. It offers a referral resource for information and services for prevention, treatment and recovery from substance use and mental health conditions. A LADDERS Search Services option allows you to locate a service provider by name, city or zip code.
Via LADDERS, Coloradans can also explore the resources below to find help with mental health or substance use issues:
- Colorado’s 24/7/365 Crisis Hotline – coloradocrisisservices.org
- Colorado’s Medicaid program – healthfirstcolorado.com
- Online service for Coloradans to determine eligibility and apply for medical, food, cash and child care assistance programs – Colorado.gov/PEAK
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator – findtreatment.samhsa.gov
- Advocates for Recovery Colorado – advocatesforrecovery.org
Another resource for Coloradans is a nonprofit organization called Healthier Minds Across the Lifespan Mental Health Colorado. This nonpartisan organization says it is “working to pass laws, change practices, and build a movement—to create healthier minds across the lifespan for all Coloradans.”
Mental Health Colorado (MHC) states that it advocates for every Coloradan who experiences a mental health or substance use condition. “We engage policymakers, providers, the public, and the press to promote mental well-being, ensure equitable access to mental health and substance use care, and end discrimination.”
A wide array of information and links to additional resources is available on the MHC website Mental Health Colorado. A Resources section allows you to select specific personal circumstances and/or related mental health support needs to learn more and, where applicable, be directed to sources of help. Sample topics: LGBTQ issues, eating disorders, veteran’s issues, suicide prevention, insurance coverage, loved one with mental illness, coping with grief, loneliness, resources for caregivers. There are also self-screening tools to help better understand your mental health situation.
Another source of assistance is the Telephone Buddy Program of the Colorado Gerontological Society (CGS). If you are looking to chat with someone once or twice a week, just to check in for 10-15 minutes, to share ideas or experiences, or to connect virtually, The CGS invites you to join the program. To be a Telephone Buddy or to request a Telephone Buddy, call 303-333-3482 or toll-free 1-855-293-6911.
“This is a time to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay,” said The Hartford in commenting on its research into men’s mental health. “There is no guilt or shame in getting the care you need. Sharing your struggle not only benefits you, but those you love as well as your community. Men’s health isn’t just about eating well, visiting your doctor for checkups and exercising. It’s also about taking your mental health seriously.”