By Mike Jacquart
Anyone who’s read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray – or any married man for that matter! – knows how different the sexes are. And yet, when I began writing Climbing out of Darkness, I was only vaguely aware that men resist counseling and prescription medication for mental health conditions. I did not realize until later this was true to that extent.
That’s probably because, after being mired in darkness for many years, and eventually diagnosed with depression and ADHD, I was excited to learn there was a medication that would help me get better. For some reason I cannot explain, I think I innately understood that needing a medication for a chemical imbalance in the brain to treat a mood disorder, is no different than a diabetic who requires insulin for his physical health.
But this rationale is not the case for many men. As a result, overcoming or de-stigmatizing mental health for men is the focus for this new series of blog posts and podcasts.
There are a number of reasons why men resist treatment for mental health issues. Pride too often gets in the way. “There is nothing that wrong with me!” Society tends to see counseling as a signal that we are deficient in some way, unable to figure out our problems on our own. This is particularly true for men, who are hardwired to be problem solvers. We want to be macho, tough it out, figure the issue out just like any other problem in our life.
It’s understandable to a certain extent. If you are a man, conditioned to be “the strong one” in the family, the person that other people look to assistance, the idea of you being he one seeking help for a mental issue is a foreign, even unpleasant concept.
What gets overlooked is that depression and other mood disorders aren’t problems to be solved, but illnesses to be treated. It is still very difficult for many people to understand that taking lithium if you suffer from bipolar disorder is no different than taking a prescribed medication if you are prone to migraines.
There are a number of methods that mental health practitioners are using to de-stigmatize this issue that will be addressed in this series. One involves changing the view of being “tough” – that it’s not a sign of strength or toughness to avoid problems that are wreaking havoc with your life. They explain to men that it’s a sign of toughness to confront, rather than ignore, problems.
I am not a very macho guy, but I understand the idea of addressing a given issue. In fact, I venture to say that most men, myself included, would see taking on a problem -even one I may not understand like a mental issue- as a challenge to be met “head on”, not an issue to be swept under the rug.
Problems don’t go away because we wish they didn’t exist. I think most men would get that. What do you think?
Mental health for men is a new series of blog posts and podcasts developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health http://freshhope.us. Portions are excerpted from Mike’s book, “Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness.” For more information, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.