Read Michael Phelps, Zayn Malik, and Shawn Mendes talk about their experiences with mental illness.
- Society tells men that it’s simply not acceptable to have too many feelings.
“Men are taught from an early age, either by cultural referencing around them or by direct parenting, to be tough, not to cry, and to ‘crack on,’” says Dr. David Plans, CEO of BioBeats, who has done extensive research in this area. “We train soldiers and professional warriors, and then expect them to be emotionally intelligent enough to open up when they need help. Worse, we expect them *never* to need help. We must bring vulnerability, as a core principle of emotional strength, into the framework of masculinity.”
Essentially, experts say, the messages men receive as children and up through adulthood discourage them from ever letting anyone know they need help. Although thankfully, this is starting to change.
- There are plenty of reasons men don’t seek out help, even if they need it.
“It can be very difficult to admit you are struggling as a man,” Alex MacLellan, a therapist and anxiety coach, tells Healthline. “Logically, you know that everyone gets down, has a problem from time to time, or finds it difficult to cope, but it often feels like you are the only person who can’t seem to handle it. You lie awake at night alone, wondering why you can’t be as in control as you should be and desperately trying not to let anyone else see how you are really doing.”
- Sometimes, even if you know you need help, it can be tough to know where to start.
“I’ve experienced many men who do not want to ask for help because they’re afraid of looking weak or stupid,” says Timothy Wenger, a men’s mental health professional and blogger at The Man Effect.
“This is something I am working hard to change. I want men to know that their internal struggles are just as valid as any other struggle, and these do not make them less of a man. What I’m finding, though, is many men don’t know how to ask for help.”
- And while finding a therapist is hard and may take some trial and error, it’s ultimately worth it.
“As the only child and son of a licensed professional counselor, you would think seeking therapy would be easy,” says A.D. Burks, author of “The 4 STEPS: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Addictive Cycle.”
“However, it was just the opposite! I thought, ‘What is a therapist going to tell me that I don’t already know?’ After considerable prompting from two close friends, I decided to schedule my first appointment. Unfortunately, that particular therapist wasn’t a good fit — prematurely confirming in my mind that I knew it all. Yet, I was still struggling with addiction. Thankfully, my mentor challenged me to visit a specific therapist. My initial visit to that therapist changed my life and ultimately helped me formulate the 4 STEPS.”
- Plus, “getting help” can take many forms.
“It’s good to keep in mind that ‘asking for help’ isn’t always a laborious, difficult task,” says Matt Mahalo, an author and speaker who has dealt with his own mental health struggles.
“Sometimes, something as simple as a few hours trawling recovery stories and tips on YouTube can be enough to get you started on the road to recovery. Sometimes it just takes a simple trip to the library. For example, my first significant step forward happened while reading ‘The Art of Happiness.’”
- People often feel a huge sense of relief after finally letting others know what they’re going through.
This includes singer Zayn Malik, who recently went public about his experiences with anxiety and an eating disorder.
“I’m definitely glad I got that off my chest, as anybody is when you feel like you’re keeping something from someone. You have to speak about it and clear up the air,” he told Us Weekly in an interview.
- Mental health issues are a lot more common than you may think, but by speaking up, some men are trying to raise awareness.
“I can tell you, I’ve probably had at least half a dozen depression spells that I’ve gone through. And the one in 2014, I didn’t want to be alive,” Michael Phelps told TODAY.
Considering that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental health condition in any given year, it’s crucial that these issues get normalized — and that’s exactly why Phelps made it a point to share his experience with others.
“You know, for me, I basically carried just about every negative emotion you can possibly carry along for 15-20 years and I never talked about it. And I don’t know why that one day I decided to just open up. But since that day, it’s just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy life and it’s something I’m very thankful for,” Phelps said.
|Read on: 10 Men on Why Speaking Out About Men’s Mental Health Is So Important|