In our culture, men are expected to be "strong" or "tough." We regard the expression of feelings as a weakness. Look no further than the Webster's Dictionary definition of "man," which uses this as an exemplary sentence: "Don't cry, little boy: be a man!"
Given this climate, it's no surprise that when it comes to mental illness -- and health issues tied to our emotions -- men are encouraged to remain stoic, to their great detriment.
More than 6 million men in America suffer from depression each year, a condition that’s very manageable with the right kind of treatment. Yet studies continually show that men are averse to receiving that treatment.
According to the World Health Organization, there's even a gender bias when it comes to diagnosing psychological disorders. Doctors are more likely to diagnose women with depression than men, even when they have similar symptoms or score the same on standardized measures of the disorder.
A recent mental health analysis also found that men are more likely not to speak up if they’re having suicidal thoughts. This is incredibly alarming, given that research shows middle-aged men are the most likely to die by suicide of any demographic.
So why isn't anyone talking about it?
According to John F. Greden, executive director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, the arbitrary definition of what it means to be masculine may have a lot to do with it.
"Men have a more difficult time acknowledging, describing or owning [mental illness] than women do," he told HuffPost. "Men need to recognize that this is not something they can just snap out of, and it’s most certainly not a sign of weakness."
That's why we created ShameOver. It's time to have an ongoing conversation about men's mental health in a way that eliminates the stigma and shame of talking about it in the first place. It's time we reclaim the definition about what it really means to "be a man" in the face of emotional and mental health issues.
As a project of our mental health initiative Stronger Together, ShameOver will be covering how notions of masculinity influence negative stereotypes. We'll dive into what measures are being taken to improve screening and outreach for men. We'll also share personal stories from men -- and the people who love them -- about their triumphs and tribulations with mental health disorders.
But most of all, ShameOver will serve as a stigma-free space to face and embrace the well-being challenges that we all experience every single day. Mental health isn't just a female issue -- it's a human issue.
This post is part of ShameOver: It's Time To Talk About Men's Mental Health, a HuffPost Healthy Living editorial initiative that aims reclaim what it means to "be strong" by addressing the stigma men face in disclosing and seeking support for mental health issues. Each week we'll share features and personal stories about men and their caregivers as it relates to suicide, mental illness and emotional well-being. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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