Man, patient or talking to psychologist on sofa in mental health, depression or anxiety counselling therapy. Psychology, stress or wellness counseling therapy help for person in rehabilitation clinic

In recent years, the conversation around mental health has gained significant traction, highlighting the importance of emotional well-being for everyone, regardless of gender. However, reports from Statista show that men are still far less likely to receive mental health treatment compared to women, and the suicide rate among men is around 3.6 times higher than that of women.   

“Men face unique challenges when it comes to mental health that discourages them from pursuing professional support, resulting in untreated conditions that may worsen over time,” says Paola Vidauri, LMFT, Clinical Therapist II in the Substance Abuse and Recovery Program at the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medical Center. “Women can play a crucial role in supporting the men in their lives to help them navigate the stigma around mental health and foster an environment of understanding and acceptance.” 

Acknowledge the ‘unspoken rule’ 

Mental health stigmas in men are often formed early in life, shaped by societal, cultural, and familial influences. As adolescents, boys are typically told to “stop crying” or “suck it up” when faced with emotional stress. This type of emotional discouragement is just one facet of what Vidauri calls the unspoken rule, which includes stereotypes such as: 

  • If a man shows his feelings, he is weak. 

  • A man is the provider of the family, his worth is tied to financial success. 

  • Men are independent and should rely on self-sufficiency to not burden others.  

When adolescent boys have feelings of sadness, anger, or grief, they may feel pressure to conform to masculine norms and suppress their emotions, which can lead to unhealthy coping skills.  

When adults downplay young boys' emotions, it essentially tells them not to talk, which leads to men feeling uncomfortable if they talk about their feelings as adults, Vidauri says.  

“When we get men in our programs who don’t want to talk, it has a lot to do with the unspoken ground rules they learned growing up, the idea that expressing emotions is reserved for women,” she says.  

How women can help 

If you are supporting a male loved one through their mental health journey, “don’t give up,” Vidauri reinforces. “I know it’s hard, especially because men must first express themselves in ways they were told wasn’t okay when they were growing up, but don’t give up.”  

Here are some ways women Vidauri says can help men navigate their mental health journey: 

Sharing experiences 

Discussing mental health helps normalize and destigmatize the topic. Exposure to the topic helps serve as a motivator for men to talk more openly about what they are going through.  

Pausing to listen 

Women often find it easier to discuss their experiences, but when conversing with a man who might not be accustomed to opening up, Vidauri suggests taking a moment to listen, as it's important to include his opinions and viewpoints in the conversation. 

Invite them to your therapy 

When dealing with a man who is reluctant to attend therapy, Vidauri suggests inviting him to your sessions so that they can see what the process is like. “If a woman tells a man he needs to go to therapy, he might get defensive and resist. However, it’s different if she invites him to join her as a part of her supportive network.” The idea is that when a hesitant person sees someone benefiting from therapy, they may become interested and start to view mental health care more positively.  

Set boundaries 

Nobody likes feeling uncomfortable, so it's essential to be patient and set boundaries for yourself. While it's important to help those around us, women must remember not to overextend themselves to the point where they become passive and neglect their boundaries. 

What if they don’t want help?  

Dealing with a loved one who doesn’t want help can be tricky because you don’t want them to shut down or shut you out. “Love them, but don’t work harder than them,” Vidauri says, “because that can make them push back.” The more you ask them to get help, the more likely they will avoid discussing personal topics with you. 

To help with this, Viduari suggests using the “three rules” method. Instead of bombarding a loved one with texts, calls, and visits, you check on them every three days. This lets them know that you are still there for them, but you respect them enough not to unintentionally burden them or push them away.  

Tips for men 

It can be challenging for men to deal with their mental health. Vidauri offers these simple tips to help men manage and improve their mental health.  

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  

  • Vitamin D: Boosting your vitamin D levels by going outside or being near a window helps regulate the mood and ward off depression.   

  • Avoid isolation: Maintaining in-person friendships rather than relying solely on online friends fosters interpersonal support with loved ones.  

  • Build a community: If you can’t surround yourself with friends and family, or you need additional community, there are numerous support groups for issues like depression and addiction.  

  • Eat well: Processed foods might taste good, but a balanced meal benefits the body and mental health.  

  • Get a checkup: Sometimes, a person experiencing mental health issues may have a deficiency in a specific hormone or vitamin, which a doctor can assess.  

  • Self-care: In today's fast-paced society, taking a mental break can be challenging, but stepping back to relax and express gratitude can help a man regain focus on the positive aspects of life. 

Click here to explore adult mental health care at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health or call 909-558-9275 for personalized assistance and treatment planning.