May is male health month. When we talk about health, remember that it is physical + mental and that mental health affects physical health. Men seek mental health help less often than women, through all channels, traditional therapy, teletherapy, even through applications. If we explain why this is, we emerge with an understanding of what really helps.
Does anyone pay attention to what mental health struggles men experience? Boys also go through a lot of shit: they always ask for work, they deal with society’s strange attitudes towards our emotions, they want to be effective social justice activists and they put the front that is expected of us.
It’s not “just” stress, anxiety and depression. More specifically, it is about managing anger, addictions, loneliness, fear of rejection, and existential shit. Society’s expectations of men prevent us from expressing our emotions and “being a man” is tied to all sorts of unrealistic ideals: be stoic, be strong, hold them together, crush them in video games but don’t be gamers , feel your emotions but don’t show anger.
The range of emotions that is supposedly good for men is too small and society considers the most positive mechanisms of emotional coping to be feminine (journalism, therapy, heart-to-heart delicacy). Suitable coping techniques for men are limited, which is why so many are incorporated into the self-destructive variety.
Too often, pride, culture, and an inadequate system prevent men from participating, examining, addressing, or honoring their mental health, preventing them from gaining interpersonal support, developing coping strategies, and feeling normal about their human feelings. and usual.
For men to better manage emotional health, we need to find ways to address ingrained barriers to support.
The biggest obstacles
When you don’t observe your emotions, you can’t identify them or let them out for processing, key factors in maintaining mental health. Mental Health America notes, “People who are good at being specific about identifying and labeling their emotions are less likely to consume drinks, be physically aggressive, or injure themselves when they are anxious.” The stigma surrounding men’s emotions poses a clear and current threat to our overall well-being.
Guys often struggle to engage with difficult feelings. Many times we don’t even realize we have a problem until it’s too late, we ignore the problems until they become a crisis. For example, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women.
We tend to dismiss our own struggles. We are told that sensitivity equates to weakness and that our feelings make us weak. We are told that all emotions other than anger are not suitable for men. This leads us to suppress important feelings, so we can still feel “good enough”. We are not taught the mechanisms of adaptation, so we often reject it by default. In addition to the impact of stigma on our self-esteem, this stigma also creates a society where men do not talk about their coping mechanisms other than anger. How can we be expected to treat our emotions if they never taught us? And what if we only associate emotional expression with unpleasant things, such as our mothers and our wives? We don’t want to be “annoyed” by talking about what bothers us.
Why don’t men go to therapy?
Also, we don’t feel comfortable with the mental health options we have at our disposal. As experts have pointed out, the practice of therapy was invented in a gendered way. Male psychoanalysts developed what would be our main focus of therapy, for use in women, whom they considered weak and hysterical.
Although therapy no longer follows the misogynistic practices of the ancestors of psychology, men still fear judgment for their assistance. As one UT psychology professor admits in an interview with VICE, “the classic image of therapy (sitting on a couch with Kleenex next to it, in a room with turquoise walls) may not be the most welcoming place for men of traditional mentality. “.
The composition of the external judgment of therapy is the fear of feeling uncomfortable during therapy. The women-led approach to psychology still persists in some clinics and their offices, affecting their ability to adapt traditional techniques to the way men really think. According to a meta-analysis of multiple studies, “women prefer to focus more on emotions as a coping strategy than men.” Differences in seeking help between men and women are clearly reflected in the data, and yet, as a society, we expect a set of tools to help men and women alike.
Of course, some men feel comfortable scheduling regularly to release emotional steam with a therapist, and this has been shown to help mental health. However, when men are not comfortable with traditional therapy, what are the existing alternatives?
Alternatives to therapy that men like
If therapy does not provide the ease, flexibility, and stigmatized experience that boys need, what can men do to appropriate their mental well-being? The Internet age has led to many attempts at digital solutions.
First, meditation applications rose in popularity. While they are good solutions for people who are already familiar with their own emotions, the idea of participating in periods of stillness may seem insurmountable to men. A 2017 study from Brown University even found that men who participated in mindfulness exercises were less likely to benefit than women.
After meditation apps, came the wave of online therapy apps. These removed physical barriers to therapy, especially innovative ones in rural areas, but did not address the cost, stigma, mistrust, and need for programming related to therapy. These solutions added nothing to make them more accessible specifically for men.
Chatbots were another wave of innovation that fell flat. And does it surprise us? Most chatbot apps are glorified magazines. They periodically ask you to rate your mood. They give one of 20 random support messages. Does anyone imagine he can provide the same support as a human being? Describing your emotions to others is already difficult and there is always fear that you will not be able to communicate what you are feeling. Isn’t the risk of feeling misunderstood with chatbots higher? Asking for chatbot assistance is useless from the start.
A promising alternative is best known in its obsolete form, but it has seen great effectiveness in its high-tech evolution: support groups. Peer support groups can be oases for men and modern adaptations of the concept of peer support offer men a way to seek support without altering their usual routine.
Support groups have been shown to work
While traditional support groups maintain the barrier of accessibility, they do address mental health in a way that seems to work best for men.
Face-to-face support groups are the ones that opened my eyes to a comfortable way to approach mental health. It was cathartic to drop the guard in front of other regular guys, who are not as likely to feel like a therapist. Hearing the genuine and vulnerable feelings of others erased my need for repression. The honesty of others showed me that I was enthralling myself, denying the reality of my emotions, for fear of the judgment of others.
I wanted to return to this support group and I wanted all my friends to experience the freedom of shared experiences. After living a life thinking I was alone in my emotions, I didn’t want others to suffer alone for fear of judgment. But not everyone had free time, lived too far away from any meeting, or was ashamed to tell their friends and wives.
Pride, stigma, and disconnection were at the root of our characteristic male approaches to emotion, but nonetheless, there was no reliable way for everyone to access the healing power of support groups. How can men connect without the risk of feeling personally stigmatized for what they share?
My answer to other men: remove personal identity. You can safely talk about anything that happens, if no one has any idea who you are.
There is an alternative to traditional therapy that allows men to benefit from removing things from the chest when convenient or first-rate, and without any risk of judgment, condescension, or identification. Mental health treatment for men should capture the effect of a face-to-face support group, except with flexibility and ease.
Supportiv is a better version of men’s support groups
I am one of the creators of Supportiv, the anonymous support network that works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and with less than a minute to wait. That’s why it’s better than everything else:
- There is no planning involved. Go whenever you want, go whenever you want.
- It’s easy. There is no profile to create, nor any form to analyze pain.
- You don’t even have to write a single complete sentence. There are directions to help you describe what you are going through.
- It’s anonymous, so no one can judge you.
- You’ll see how many other people really feel the same way you do, even if they would never admit it in person.
Why online and anonymous peer support works so well for men
At Supportiv, you get perspective to reevaluate the normality of your emotions, in a space where no one cares about hiding their own reality. And you can also work on difficult feelings and depressing situations with other people who may have been there as well.
Because 57% of its user base is male, Supportiv has appeared in Men’s Health, Entrepreneur, Health, Business Insider and more, as a tool that guys feel comfortable using to manage their mental well-being.
This content was provided by Jhon Thomas.