Starting from childhood, oftentimes males are taught to “toughen up,” “be strong,” or “be a man.” Many men have said that they learned early on that being “too emotional” can be considered a sign of weakness. Does this allow boys and men to develop their emotional intelligence (E.Q.) or hinder them from seeking help when they need it?
Males are 4Xs more likely to die by suicide compared to females, according to the Center for Disease Control. However, historically, men are less likely to seek support with their mental health, specifically by way of therapy.
There is what we here at Affinity Health Affairs call A Men’s Mental Health Movement. This is a group of men, representing ordinary to extraordinary, who are taking a stand as leaders on the front lines saying loud and clear that mental health is health too. These men are the true game changers who are elevating their game in mental health for the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities.
Undoubtedly, we have a long way to go with destigmatizing therapy and mental health in our society. Nonetheless, more males are blowing the whistle on the need for self care and reaching out for therapy. In fact, a number of male celebrities have taken on leadership roles to normalize therapy and spread the message that it is okay not to be okay.
Radio host of The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne Tha God, for example, launched a new initiative, the Mental Wealth Alliance to help destigmatize mental health issues and to normalize the idea of Black people going to therapy, according to an article on Forbes.com. He speaks openly about how working with his therapist helped him overcome anxiety.
Charlamagne isn’t the only prominent figure adding to the mental health movement. The growing number of celebrities who have opened up about going to individual or family therapy now includes Gospel artist, Kirk Franklin; actors Jim Carrey, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Rickey Smiley; and singer-songwriter, Bruce Springsteen. We applaud these men for influencing a more widespread embrace of going to therapy without shame.
Seven Barriers that Keep Men from Seeking Therapy
- It is seen as a sign of weakness
- Fear of being seen as a “failure”
- Cultural stigma against mental health issues
- The self-perception that “Therapy can’t fix me”
- “Saving face.” Many men, especially in communities of color have been taught not to share private information about their health, family, or relationships.
Men of Color Face More Mental Health Hurdles
Men of color face additional hurdles to accessing mental health with the limited number of culturally competent mental health care providers. Plus, there has been a long history of over-diagnosis and misdiagnosis in communities of color. Men and boys of color, such as those of Black communities, have additional stressors to include high rates of substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, being raised in single parent households, poverty, limited access to quality health care, police brutality, violence, and incarceration.
One of the men on the front line of the Men’s Mental Health Movement is motivational speaker George White. George affirms, “Working on your mental health helps you break generational cycles. Before we can create generational wealth, we have to create generational health. It’s impossible to lead your family if you are not strong mentally.”
That leads us to three ways that men can take action today to become mentally healthy.
Three Steps that Men Can Take to Get Support Today
Make your mental health a priority
Know that mental health is health too. Oftentimes men do such a great job taking care of themselves physically, but neglect the emotional and mental parts of themselves. Join the Men’s Mental Health Movement along with motivational speaker George White, veteran and father David Grogan, and Minister, host and husband Dr. Martin Valle and others.
Confront the costs and see it as an investment.
Contact your insurance provider to determine coverage, copay, and reimbursement details. You can also look into your employer’s employee assistance program (EAP), which provides FREE access to licensed therapists for usually between two to 10 sessions. Keep in mind that you can use your health savings and flexible spending account, if you do not have health insurance. You can also pay out-of-pocket. Many people say that the benefits of therapy are priceless and that they wish they had done it sooner.
Find a good match
Find a good match. Therapy is like dating. You must find a good match. A good match is one where you feel comfortable to say anything and express yourself freely without judgment from your therapist. Use the internet to research the right therapist using keywords that are relevant to your needs. For example, “Black Therapist in the DMV.” With technological advances, there are now options to receive therapy in person, through televideo, and by phone or chat.
What Do You Do When You See the Boys and Men In Your Life Struggling?
There is nothing like a man wrapping his arms of support around another man, said Minister Martin Valle, Television and Radio Host of Truth Broadcast Ministries. That said, men who share their personal testimonies of getting help can be the most inspiring and influential to other boys and men who feel lost and alone.
Another frontline soldier of the Men’s Mental Health Movement, David Grogan, who is now 55 years old, is a father, a U.S. Marine Veteran and Retired Federal Law Enforcement Agent of 25 years. David said, “I grew up without a father.” He stresses the importance of mentorship and guidance to other boys and men. At 13 years old David was mentored by a professional bodybuilder and said that he learned lessons that will stick with him for life. David said that a number one thing he taught his daughter is “emotional management.” He said, “The only way she could understand emotional management is through me.” David said that he had to be mentally healthy to model how to act and behave in front of his child. David said that men need to be prepared by being mentally and physically healthy to raise their children.
As a wife, a sister, or a woman who sees males in your life struggling with depression, anxiety, fear, or changes in their mood, it can take a toll on your well-being to watch them suffer. Remember, take care of your own well-being and encourage the men in your life to seek the professional support they need. Also, do your best to be patient and nonjudgemental, as men may experience the symptoms of mental health challenges differently than women. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do not try to diagnose or be a therapist to your loved one. Please, leave that to the professionals.
In closing, let these words of wisdom from motivational speaker George White permeate our thoughts today, “It’s time to make a change, and the change starts now!”
The team at Affinity Health Affairs is here to support you. We are committed to helping men, women and children in elevating their game to be mentally healthy. Reach out for help today at 202-335-6411.