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Men and mental health: Why ‘man-up’ is not the answer


Millions of people live with mental health issues ranging from social anxiety, OCD to the more menacing depression, schizophrenia and other disorders. There are clearly more conversations around mental health concerns but many still don’t have the courage to reach out and seek help. It may even be a harder battle for men who are asked to ‘man-up’ everytime they show any vulnerability!

Prakriti Poddar, Global Head for mental health at round glass, MD at Poddar Foundation agrees, “Men struggle more to accept the fact that they have a mental health issue and that they need help. The complex gender dynamics, especially stereotypes, of our society makes them consider seeking help for better mental health contrary to the concept of being strong and becoming unsuitable for the role of a provider. As per estimates, nearly 250 Indian men died by suicide every day in 2018, a number that is more than double the number of women.”

According to an ETimes Lifestyle poll, 39 per cent people feel that men don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health issues. Out of all the participants, almost 40 per cent of people said they don’t often talk about it because ‘they don’t want to appear weak and vulnerable’.

Interestingly, 52 per cent people feel that men get most affected by financial issues, followed by work, relationships and a meager 5 per cent chose ‘health’. Prakriti adds, “Usually, marriage acts as a boost to mental health — it provides a companion and a friend that reduces the chance of depression. However, marital strife, divorce, and death of the spouse can disrupt these functions of marriage. With changing social norms and reversal of traditional roles in a family, the expectation of men and women from a marriage is changing fast. Many men struggle a lot to accept these changes, and those who are harassed by their wife and her relatives find it all the more difficult — they fear social stigma and are not at peace, either at home or outside.”

The best way, and the biggest challenge, is to accept the reality and not to escape from it. There is no ‘male’ mental health condition or treatment per se, but certain symptoms such as irritability, risk-taking, increased loss of control, sudden anger, and aggression, are more common in men than women. They are also likely to opt for substance and alcohol abuse which may require de-addiction treatment.

Psychologists also want people to know that quite often alcohol dependence in men is less about self-control and more about an underlying mental health issue like depression. When family and friends tend to undermine the importance of taking mental health illness seriously, people find it tough to have the conversation and silently suffer – leading to poor habit, aggression and a nagging feeling of sadness.



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