Men’s Mental Health: Breaking Through the Stigma

By Scott Rutherford

hile focusing on men’s health, it’s critical that we don’t neglect our mental health. While the prevalence of mental illness is believed to be higher in women than in men, men who do deal with mental illnesses – and there are many – are less likely to receive treatment and more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Men have been told, ‘don’t cry, brush it off,’” says Tramenia Bolden, operations manager of Path Behavioral Health Care (formerly Biltmore) in Shreveport, adding that she has seen increased anger, depression, and frustration among men in the years since Covid. “There’s nothing wrong with getting help,” she adds. “If you feel no hope, do something, no matter where you are, especially if you are feeling suicidal.”

Licensed clinical social worker Marguerite Salley, also of Shreveport, suggests that men’s aversion to seeking help is deep-seated, both culturally and by our very nature. “It’s in their DNA almost,” Salley said. “Men are the hunters and gatherers and have never been allowed to express their emotions. Asking for help is seen as weak. Culturally, men are supposed to be strong and know everything. They don’t like to read directions and certainly don’t like to ask for help.”

Anne Sanchez, a social worker whose life was deeply affected when her husband, a noncommissioned officer in the US Army, dealt with service-related mental health issues, agrees. “In my experience, the biggest obstacles men face in addressing mental health issues are the stigma attached to it from others, the fear of being judged,” she said. “Seeking and especially remaining in counseling becomes challenging.”

“Asking for help actually means you’re a pretty smart person. It’s okay to know what you need,” Salley said, adding that, in her experience, many men who do seek mental health care “often prefer to see a woman [therapist] and are particularly comfortable with an older woman.”

Bolden suggests that anyone seeking mental health care help should seek out “someone with whom you feel comfortable and who is actually listening – someone who speaks your language.”

Sanchez suggests “finding a counselor who has experience with men’s specific mental health diagnoses,” though she admits that can be difficult in some areas. As one who has seen tremendous restoration and healing in her own family’s story, in large part due to her husband hitting bottom and seeking the treatment he needed, she says, “The advice I would give to men considering treatment is to focus on their own needs and not what others think. It’s okay to seek help, regardless of the reason. There are many more men who seek help than you realize, and it’s important to be strong and seek help rather than allow your life to spiral out of control. The very idea of asking for help shows a man’s strength.”