Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/14/2022
Most of us agree men’s mental health isn’t anyone’s priority, but what gives? Why is men's mental health not taken seriously?
From the Boomer-promoted notion of “strong and silent” masculinity to the socially accepted idea that a man’s need to see a therapist is a sign of weakness, cultural norms reduce the resources, encouragement and acceptance available to men who need mental health support.
This outdated way of thinking likely leads to higher suicide rates among “less successful” men, whether they’re unmarried, less educated or less wealthy.
Let’s talk about why it still happens.
Your mental health matters, regardless of your gender. And you matter, regardless of your gender.
As a man, hearing those affirmations may be a relatively rare occurrence. So before we jump into the statistics on men’s mental disorders, it helps to give some context about mental health and psychological distress in general.
For instance, data show that about one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. That’s more than 50 million people as of 2020.
The data suggest women are more likely to suffer from “any mental illness” than men — that’s upwards of 25 percent of women compared to just under 16 percent of men.
But this is where things start to get bleaker for men. The same study data showed that a substantially higher number of women receive mental health services for their conditions. More than 51 percent of women got help, while just 37 percent of men received care or mental health services.
So why is men’s mental health not given the same weight or value in society? Why do men face barriers to support, stigma against seeking it and judgment for asking?
It has to do with the way society sees men — and how men see themselves. Not sure what we mean? Let’s start with some facts about masculine norms.
Stigma is what tells men they’re less valuable if they’re struggling with mental illness. It can come from peers, parents, communities or even the media.
Research on why this happens tells us a few things you may already know:
Men with lower health literacy are likely to have negative views of mental health.
Men without personal experience have more negative views of depression.
Men are more likely to believe people with mental illness are dangerous.
Embarrassment and self-stigmatization prevent men from seeking help.
Younger men tend to face more stigma about depression and suicide.
Mental illness has a number of potential causes. Your risk factor could be higher based on genetics, family history, past trauma and other things you can’t control.
Science essentially says that if you have a mental illness, it’s not your fault. So where does this stigma come from? Why is men’s mental health not taken seriously?
Experts believe mental health stigma comes in three forms: public, institutional and self or individual stigma. Each of these manifests in different ways.
With public stigma, people discriminate against those suffering from mental illness. It might come in the form of rejection or outcasting. Or it could involve shaming, whether on social media or in casual conversation.
Institutional stigma may be reflected in government or corporate policies that restrict people with mental health issues from succeeding, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Stigma from institutions may also unfairly villainize mental health and reduce funding for mental health treatment — sometimes in favor of criminal or other punitive measures for people who just need support.
As for self-stigma, this is the stuff that’s in your head.
You may be conditioned to think you’re less worthy or valuable if you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. You may wrongly believe it’s a character flaw or a sign of your own shortcomings and devalue yourself.
These sources of stigma can lead to discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes harmful to you and anyone else with a mental health condition (and remember, that’s a large portion of the population).
In these cases, some believe it’s simply easier to ignore, reject or reduce their mental health condition — to not take it seriously — and hope it’ll simply go away if no one mentions it.
If you don’t take your mental health or the mental health of a loved one seriously, bad things can happen.
People who brush off their mental health needs can find themselves spiraling further into mental or physical illness. They may lose relationships, see their self-esteem crumble, struggle at work and become isolated from friends and family.
Let’s set gender aside for the moment and look at the physical symptoms of mental illness. Untreated depression, for instance, can lead to the following symptoms:
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of worthlessness
Attention and concentration impairment
Reduced interest in activities that bring you pleasure
Changes in appetite
Changes in weight
If left untreated, depression can spiral further, bringing on thoughts, considerations and even attempts at suicide.
Suicidal risk is not something to take lightly — it can be hard to predict or even detect in certain individuals. The best prevention strategy for suicide is to never let mental illness get bad enough that those thoughts arise in the first place.
Make no mistake: these are real problems — problems that get worse when you don’t take your mental health seriously. Suicide isn’t a solution, but it can potentially be the final, terrible symptom of a mental illness ignored and denied.
Many men wonder if they’re weak for asking for help — sometimes to the point that they never ask for help.
That’s stigma. And it can help explain why men’s mental health is often not taken seriously.
No, you’re not weak for asking for help. We could leave it at that, but we have proof to back up this answer.
Globally, men are more than twice as likely as women to die by suicide despite lower reporting rates for depression. There’s a simple explanation for this: men are less likely to report because of stigma around mental illness.
If you’re struggling — or if you’re concerned that you’re starting to struggle — asking for help, support and empathy isn’t a sign of weakness, fragility or unworthiness.
It’s just smart problem-solving.
Your mental health isn’t a character flaw or a three-point reduction in your value on some numerical scale. It’s just your health. You deserve health care. Now let’s talk about how to get it.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, take it seriously. If you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to?
Taking your mental health seriously may mean accessing treatments like therapy, medication and lifestyle changes based on your unique circumstances.
But taking pills and altering your daily habits doesn’t have to happen just yet. The only thing you need to worry about at the moment is talking to mental health professionals.
A mental health provider will assess your symptoms and offer a better understanding of what’s going on with your mental health struggles.
They may diagnose you, prescribe medication or make referrals based on your unique needs. A healthcare professional may also direct your treatment or let someone else with the right qualifications take the lead.
Ready to reach out but not sure where to start? There are plenty of great places to ask for support. Family, general practitioners and even trusted friends or community members of your community may be able to help you find the right person.
But you might consider letting Hims take the reins.
Our online therapy platform is a great place to conveniently get the mental health support you need — without commutes or the hassle of trying multiple therapists out and starting the process over every time.
Online therapy is just one of the services we offer through our mental health resources.
If you’re ready to take your mental health seriously, we are too. Reach out today.