It’s a sad fact that men don’t go to counseling as often as they should. In fact, there are very few men seeking counseling for their mental health. Find out about the alarming statistics and why so few men get the help that they need.
Mental illness is a common occurrence in today’s world. Experts estimate that doctors diagnose one in every five women and one in every eight men with common mental illnesses. Issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, and anxiety are more common than we realize. But, with such a high percentage of men experiencing mental illness, why don’t more of them speak up about men seeking counseling?
The answer is simple: because they don’t seek help. Only about one-third of people in therapy in the US are men. While over 14% of men in the US experience a mental health issue, very few of them get help. Only 60% of depressed men go for treatment, but over 72% of women obtain help. And while 9% of women make use of outpatient mental health services, only 5% of men do so.
When it comes to prescription medication for mental illness, men are even less likely to participate. While 16% of women use prescription medication to improve their mental health, only 9% of men do so. This is, in part, because so few men actually go for help. It’s also because they don’t always follow the course of treatment offered by a counselor.
But for some reason, older men seeking counseling is more common than younger men. Men over 50 are more likely to get help than their younger counterparts. They may care less about what others think, or they may understand the importance of getting help.
Men often avoid seeking help until there is a major crisis. What are some of the consequences of this? For one, there’s a high rate of suicide among males. Men die as a result of suicide 3.5 times more frequently than women. In 2015, seven out of every ten suicides were committed by white men.
Another consequence is the abuse of substances. Not receiving any help for their problems could result in self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. That could help to explain why men tend to men abuse drugs at higher rates than women. Men tend to start using drugs at an earlier age, are more likely to abuse alcohol and tobacco, and are more likely to participate in binge drinking.
This adverse reaction to counseling even hurts marriages. Men who are unwilling to participate in couples counseling may put their marriage in danger. Instead of fixing their marriage, they destroy it.
Why Aren’t More Men Seeking Counseling?
Society puts a great deal of pressure on men to be “tough”. They are supposed to be unemotional and able to withstand anything. And this mentality has had a major impact on the way they perceive their own emotions.
Often, they are out of touch with their emotions. A man who feels depressed might not realize it. He may have been taught to suppress his emotions, and so as an adult doesn’t understand the depth of his sadness. Suppressing tears and sadness his whole life became the norm, so he stopped realizing what he was feeling.
Then, there’s the independence issue. At a young age, boys are often taught the importance of being independent. Seeking help for anything may make some men feel like a failure. They never had to depend on someone before, so why should they start now? Instead of getting help, they try to handle things themselves. But when you’re dealing with serious issues, you need all the help you can get.
There’s also the trust issue. Some experts believe that men are raised to put less trust into others. Opening up to a therapist or counselor takes a great deal of trust- and some men are unable to put that much trust into one person. Even if they seek help, they may keep much of their experiences to themselves. Without sharing everything, it can be impossible for an expert to make a diagnosis or to offer any help.
Regardless of gender, mental illness has a stigma. People often view those with mental illnesses as weak or incapable. Combine that stigma with society’s pressure for a man to be tough and unwavering, and it makes counseling very unappealing. Many men are afraid that going to therapy will make the world perceive them differently. Some may even view it as emasculating.
Speaking Up About It
You can’t force someone to go to counseling. But there is something you can do. As more health professionals speak up about mental illness in men, more men have the courage to go for help. Make it known that there’s no shame in getting help. If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, find a local counselor and schedule an appointment.