Why More Men are Seeking Therapy and Why It’s a Good Trend
Therapy is where men can learn how to assess and treat their mental health with expert tools and guidance.
Diagnosed mental illness is common in today’s world. Approximately one in every eight men have been diagnosed with common mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and anxiety. But despite higher rates of diagnoses, many men are still going untreated.
More men are seeking therapy and that’s a good thing. Accepting that mental health is just as important as any other health issue is a trend that is good for everyone, from the men dealing with the issues to their partners and families to therapists, counselors, and mental health professionals in the business.
A higher number of men seeking therapy also means that the mental health industry will focus more on men because there is a “market” for developing tools for helping men, whereas before, the industry tended to be driven by serving the needs of women.
Men Battle Mental Health Issues on their Own
But the increase in men seeking therapy hasn’t yet caught up to the number of cases of mental illness among men. More than 6 million men in the United States are affected by depression but are far less likely than women to seek therapy. Only about half of all men diagnosed with depression go for treatment. And only about 5 percent of men make use of outpatient mental health services.
This means many men are struggling on their own with mental health issues and not receiving support that could help them better manage their condition.
Why is this? And why, despite the increase in people seeking and openly talking about therapy, are there still men who view it as embarrassing and/or unnecessary?
Men Have Begun to View Therapy Differently
The results of men avoiding treatment are devastating. Rates of male suicide have been on the rise since 2000 and suicide accounted for more than 2 percent of all male deaths in 2011. Four times the number of men commit suicide as opposed to women.
But mental health experts are hoping the improving attitudes toward men seeking mental health will have a positive impact.
In general, society has become more accepting of therapy and people are seeking support in situations they might not have in the past. In part, this is due to recent pro-therapy media campaigns and people more openly discussing mental health issues.
What is important is that men begin to view therapy as a profession where they can learn how to assess and treat their mental health with expert tools and guidance.
Why Men Seek Therapy
In at least some cases, people consider therapy after knowing someone or knowing of someone committing suicide. They see how bad things can get and they take the initiative to address their mental health issues before things progress. Many also describe being shocked that the person would take their own life because they seemed to have it all. The reality of things triggers something in them to seek help for themselves.
One of the most important tools available for preventing suicide is talking openly about it, which is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Hearing that a loved one has considered hurting himself can be difficult to accept and these conversations tend to make things worse instead of better. There’s a lot of baggage for everyone involved and as a result, men choose to keep their thoughts to themselves, which can lead to devastating consequences.
Many people, especially men who seek therapy do so because they feel lost and confused. They might be depressed or anxious, but they aren’t sure why. They take an objective look at their life and see nothing wrong with it, but they feel a certain way. It’s as if something is missing or they feel disconnected or empty, even though they appear to have it all. Knowing that someone who also seemed to have nothing wrong with their life chose to end it makes them re-evaluate their frame of mind and whether they could benefit from professional support.
Working with a therapist means there is an objective ‘stranger,’ available to hear your innermost thoughts without passing judgment or taking things personally. Having a therapist help you if you are feeling suicidal, anxious, or depressed also means you’ll gain access to professional tools for dealing with your situation. You’d seek medical attention if you thought you were having a heart attack or had developed cancer. Similarly, you would seek out a professional to help you clarify the cause of your mental health symptoms and treat or manage them.
Couples Therapy: A Gateway to One-on-One Therapy for Men
In other cases, men attend couples’ therapy at the behest of their significant other. Even if a man is uncomfortable with the idea of sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings, the risk of losing one of his most important relationships can be enough to convince him to try therapy.
According to Deryl Goldenberg, Ph.D. “I’ve noticed that many of the fears and stereotypes they’ve carried with them about therapy only dissolve when faced with the possibility of rejection, for example, when their spouse or partner threatens the end of a relationship. When a romantic or sexual relationship is on the line that can get the man’s attention, and his fear of loss will often drive him into therapy.”
Society is Changing Its View of Men and Mental Health
The tendency to view men as tough and independent, and therefore not in need of support, is changing. Therapy is no longer viewed as weak or emasculating, and more and more men are coming forward and sharing their mental health issues in an effort to eliminate the stereotypes.
Unfortunately, therapy by itself, is not a cure-all, but this doesn’t mean it won’t help. You might never completely shake the feeling that something is missing or you might struggle with negative thoughts your entire life, but therapy can help you manage and get the tools you need to choose not to act on these thoughts.
For some, therapy does have a significant impact and it helps men deal with whatever issues they are having. Because they attend therapy, they can change their perspective, learn to use new tools, and ultimately have more fulfilling relationships. It’s possible for some men therapy will be a “game-changer.” Luckily, there are more men today than ever before willing to at least give it a shot.