Did you know that close to one in 10 American men suffers from depression or anxiety? If so, did you also know that fewer than half of those men seek treatment or help? These are the statistics gleaned for a June 2015 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means that there is a very good chance that one of the guys on your weekend softball team is fighting depression or anxiety. It also means that there is an even better chance that he is fighting it alone.
Why do these men choose to face the battle alone? Most likely it is a combination of two stigmatic forces. First, there is the common misconception that depression is a women’s illness, a problem of the weak, or simply whining. Secondly, there is the preconceived notion that “mental health” is the code name for “crazy”. Both of these attack the very framework of men- strength, stability and masculinity.
First thing is first. Your brain and mind were not manufactured on an assembly line in Detroit. There is no factory warranty or extended miles coverage. And there absolutely is no owner’s manual in the glove box. If there were an owner’s manual for your brain, it would most likely recommend that you seek service often and regularly. Just as the vehicle you drive requires maintenance to operate at its peak performance, so does your mind. Could you imagine being embarrassed to take your truck in for an oil change or feeling shame for talking about options to improve its capabilities on and off road? You rely on your vehicle to get you to work, to do things for others and to help you get done what must get done. Perhaps you need to start thinking of your mind in the exact same fashion. Apply the same concept to your mind as you do to your car – I need this thing to perform, to get me where I am going efficiently, and to be reliable and safe – and mental health care moves away from things men don’t do and over to things men do to enhance performance.
It is universally accepted that strong people get that way by working, exercising and taking care of their bodies. So, then (continuing on the vehicle concept) wouldn’t neglecting to address depression, anxiety, and stress on your mind be akin to getting a brand new paint job, custom interior and sport wheels on a vehicle with a blown engine? No one would shame a guy for wanting that engine to run well. You shouldn’t allow shame to become a reason for not caring for your engine – your mind.
In short, we need to reframe our thoughts on mental health. Instead of correlating mental health to mental illness and weakness only, we should focus on seeing mental health as a positive state of functioning – a way to perform at your peak – for men and for women alike. It is not a gender issue. It is a human concern.