Exploring the Stigma of Men and Mental Health

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The stereotype that men are tough and don’t need help persists. Evidence shows fewer men seek out assistance for psychological challenges compared to women.

During the last few years, we have witnessed a rise in awareness about mental health issues. Celebrities and star athletes have promoted increased advocacy for mental health. Yet, men still are negatively affected by toxic masculinity and the fear of showing vulnerability.

What Barriers Prevent Men From Seeking Mental Health Assistance?

Men don’t go to therapists or mental health counselors for a variety of reasons including: pressure about societal norms, reluctance to talk about their problems, embarrassment and shame.

Bombarded with messages from their culture or heritage, many men end up wanting to conform to a traditional masculine gender role. As a result, men are trapped because they don’t want to show weakness or vulnerability, especially when it comes to mental health problems.

As a result, women are more likely than men to receive any kind of mental health treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data brief.

Based on 2020 statistics, the CDC says only 8% of American men receive counseling or therapy. Age affected their willingness to find help. In fact, researchers found a correlation between increased age and less willingness. Specifically, 20.5% of men between the ages of 45 and 64 sought help while numbers dropped to 18.7% for those seeking help who were 65 and over.

Do Men Seek Help For Physical Health Challenges?

Unfortunately, men aren’t going to physicians for regular medical care, check-ups or for run-of-the-mill injuries either. A national survey found 72% of men would rather do household chores than go to the doctor. Once there, they are not forthcoming about their issues.

For example, headaches like migraines, affect men. Because migraines are invisible and have been viewed historically as a woman’s illness, men are less likely to consult a doctor or get diagnosed with migraine.

What Are The Major Mental Health Problems Affecting Men?

One of the biggest mental health problems affecting men is depression. Over 6 million males are affected by depression in the US per year according to The National Institute of Mental Health. Scientists are finding that depressive symptoms in men can manifest as increased fatigue and higher levels of irritability and anger. The loss of interest in work and sleep disruption are also signs.

Research revealed that depression isn’t the only major mental health problem affecting men. The incidence of schizophrenia was two to three times higher in the male population than in the female population.

Another big mental health problem for men concerns alcohol addiction and substance abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that men are more likely than women to use illicit drugs and use of these drugs are “more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths” for men than women.

When it comes to male suicide, the 2020 statistics from The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are sobering. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men with white males accounting for almost 70% of suicide deaths. Men’s deaths attributable to suicide are almost 4x higher than for women.

What Are the Treatments for Men’s Mental Health Problems?

While there are barriers to overcome that are often related to men’s image-making and socio-cultural influences, mental health professionals usually offer the same options for treatment to men and women. They include medication, psychotherapy and/or lifestyle changes.

Diet, exercise and getting good sleep are lifestyle changes. They are also the pillars of good mental health. Psychologists and mental health counselors recommend a variety of lifestyle changes that often include:

Solutions That Encourage Men To Find Help for Mental Health Challenges

Technology has made it easier and more convenient for men to seek help for mental illness. That is thanks to telehealth, online therapy and low-cost therapy apps.

While numbers of men seeking help is rising, to increase men’s usage of mental health services, interventions for men should target their help-seeking behavior according to one study.

Compared to their female counterparts, if men hesitate and avoid seeking help for mental health difficulties, the most effective interventions should increase male acceptance of seeking help in psychological areas.

The study says that “Interventions that appear to improve male help-seeking incorporate role models, psychoeducational materials, symptom recognition and management skills, active problem-solving tasks, motivating behavior change, signposting materials, and content that builds on positive masculine traits (e.g., responsibility and strength).”

While work still needs to be done to end the stigma about men seeking mental health services, a major change in terms of improving help-seeking behavior through education, motivation, increased use of male role models and the increased building on positive masculinity should be employed to make a difference.

A Word From Verywell

Here are organizations that men might find useful to contact should they need mental health assistance right away:


2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. acono WG, Beiser M. Are males more likely than females to develop schizophrenia?Am J Psychiatry. 1992;149(8):1070-1074. doi:10.1176/ajp.149.8.1070

  2. Sagar-Ouriaghli I, Godfrey E, Bridge L, Meade L, Brown JSL. Improving Mental Health Service Utilization Among Men: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of Behavior Change Techniques Within Interventions Targeting Help-SeekingAm J Mens Health. 2019;13(3):1557988319857009. doi:10.1177/1557988319857009

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.