The stigma surrounding mental health has long been a barrier to meaningful conversations about the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. But because of gender stereotypes, it’s even harder for men to talk about their mental and emotional health. From an early age, most men get taught that being masculine or a “real man” means not showing weakness. The result is generations of men who are embarrassed to display emotions such as sadness, insecurity, and fear.

However, mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and all genders can experience mental health conditions. The most common mental health issues experienced by men include depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder.

Mental health conditions can result from various factors, including life-related pressures, genetic predisposition, existing health conditions, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and grief. Some men ignore their emotions or even self-medicate to avoid acknowledging difficult feelings. Poor mental health can manifest as symptoms of aggression, physical issues, weight changes, fatigue, and obsessive thinking. And when left mismanaged or untreated, mental health conditions can lead to poor quality of life, risky behavior, and substance abuse.

Mental health and substance abuse

One way that men may self-medicate mental illness symptoms such as depression is through substance use. Using drugs and consuming alcohol temporarily allows them to cope with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness. An increasing use can lead to dependency and, ultimately, addiction.

Because of this tendency, mental disorders have been established as risk factors for developing a substance use disorder. However, addiction has also been recognized as a risk factor for mental health conditions. Chronically using drugs or alcohol can lead to changes in the brain, resulting in mental health problems such as aggression, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and even hallucinations.

Substance use disorder has been classified as a mental health disorder because of its impacts on the brain and behavior. According to the Addiction Center, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs and alcohol than women.

When it comes to mental health issues and substance use problems, men suffer because of societal discrimination and expectations. “Boys will be boys” has been a socially acceptable reaction when young men experiment with alcohol and substances. And “man up” has always been a response to men struggling with their mental health. We believe that this must change.

At Communicare, we know that mental health and substance use does not discriminate. We offer multiple treatment options for co-occurring disorders (substance use disorders and mental health disorders).

Should you or a loved one have a mental health emergency, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, or call1-866-837-7521 to be connected to Communicare’s mobile crisis team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.