Why can men be more hesitant to seek help than women?

We’re reaching a time where mental health is openly discussed more. I love how many people are starting to feel comfortable speaking about this topic, but one thing I believe we as a society need to prioritize, is the way in which we refer to/ engage with men and their mental health. The media in particular has set a tone I would like to see shift in my lifetime. When I’m in line at the grocery store and turn to see those checkout line magazines talking about how men can be “desirable” or how to live the “best life”, I can’t help but feel a wave of disappointment. The covers usually have a half-naked man on display with bolded words such as “strength”, “muscle made easy”, and “the super man’s guide to big- ass arms” to pull you in. There are multiple components of strength which encompass spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. You can have all the “big-ass arm” guides in the world and break every powerlifting record, but these things do not equate to or properly measure a man’s strength. Mental health is a major component that we need to recognize.

this article contains:

  • Q&A

  • Benevolent Detachment

  • 10 Mental Health Habits

  • A Conversation Surrounding Mental Health

  • Digging Deeper- Personal Reflection Questions

Traditionally, society looks to men for leadership. They’re told they need to lead their family, excel in the workplace (pun intended), all while looking “hot”- but what we and the majority of magazines and other media outlets neglect is mental health care. We meme men who display emotion, blast them online, and on the cover of trashy tabloids that sell like hotcakes. We get behind the #cancelled trend but label men with healthy boundaries as having “mommy issues”, “needy”, or a “closeted homosexual”. Why is it okay for women’s magazines to share “10 ways to check in with yourself this week” and “how to create a mental health game-plan” but less acceptable for us to engage in the same conversation, printing these topics on male oriented magazines?

The “A-list body” doesn’t translate to “A-list” leadership or behavior. We start movements advocating for women and minority groups yet advertise unrealistic and misrepresented male standards. 1 in 3 magazines I found had a mental health mention on the cover- and even still, it was difficult to see at first glance because the headlines are tucked away in the bottom right hand corner instead of being front and center like the image based content. I often wonder, if society and the media approached mental health the way fitness and body image is promoted- would the world be more peaceful, and content? Imagine walking past magazines showcasing “your best week yet”, “7 hacks to overcome negative self-talk”, “A-list mindset in 21 days”, “how to find the counselor for you”, or “10 new meditation apps”. Perhaps men and women would feel less like each other’s competition or self-conscious in general. Mental health isn’t exclusively a male or female topic- it is not limited to a certain age, geographical location, race, religion, occupation, or anything else, which is why the United Nations has begun advocating and including “mental health and development” as one of their human rights issues.

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A few weeks ago I was on Instagram and saw a local coffee shop had posted a team feature. I adore reading these and learning more about the lives of the friendly and always welcoming baristas ready to serve drinks and kindness to everyone who enters. For 6+ months I’ve been working behind the scenes on a mental health campaign- learning, starting conversations, and praying on how to include a mental health section on the website. While on this journey, I realized all of my connections, friends, resources, etc. are women, and the male friends I spoke to weren’t inclined to have the conversation with me. That week’s coffee shop team feature was on Daniel, and his feature in particular really stuck with me. He shared a bit about his life- from keeping tally of 2020 owl sightings in his bullet journal, to the Mental Health Counseling graduate program he is enrolled in. After reading and then re-reading his feature, and program title, I knew I needed to sit down with him!

Fast forward- I had the privilege of spending time with Daniel and engaging in a conversation surrounding the mental health stigma. As we sat in the coffee shop of a Bible centric town, we spoke about the influence this has on people- both men, women, and children- and how faith plays a role. Daniel shared with me a few chapters of his story, and what inspired him to pursue a mental health study/ career path. I learned how a family rupture at a young age had propelled him forward by recognizing mental health, and coupled with seeking council from those around him this became a heavy influence when selecting his graduate study. People came alongside Daniel to champion him by sharing their observation for how he would make a great counselor. His passion for serving, and improving the lives of others sprinkled with his authenticity, and capacity to care for people are but few of the many honorable, and admirable characteristics of those in the mental health field.

Daniels’ faith is evident in the way he speaks about mental health. His approach is welcoming for fellow believers, yet respectful for those who are disinterested in sharing his faith. Daniel mentioned several times how he wants to “help people find healing”- even without directly integrating Christian beliefs with clients, he shares how he would “have the same framework [because] it’s an honor to sit with someone in that pain and suffering”. He doesn’t want to use his faith or popularized personality tests/ tools to create a barrier where clients feel embarrassed or self-conscious to open up, and/ or seek help. He further explains how his program in particular does a great job of equipping and equally representing people. The classes, and curriculum showcase both men, and women, in addition to socio-economic diversity- which are all important factors, and tools for counselors, and mental health professionals to be properly educated on.

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From my experience that I’ve been apart of, because I don’t want to generalize it- men are more resistant than going to counseling.

Mental health in general has a stigma around it and many people view the topic as “bad” or “embarrassing” to talk about. Daniel’s openness to engage in this conversation with me was refreshing.

One of the reasons I wanted to learn more about Daniel’s grad program is because he is the only man I know pursuing a career in mental health. I was shocked to see his choice of study because the majority of men I know have/ are pursuing a degree in business, accounting, or something along those lines. It was refreshing, and inspiring to see Daniel choosing to be an advocate, and help equalize the amount of men in this field. I hope one day we become less shocked to see men taking an interest in mental health, and pursuing this career path. I think in order for more men to feel comfortable even having this conversation, let alone joining this field, is by seeing more men like Daniel normalize mental health- which is exactly why I’m sharing this article.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Q: How many men are in your program?

A: 5 and there are 19 people in the program.

Q: What is the age range of students currently in your program?

A: 22-30

Q: What year are you?

A: First year

Q: What’s Your favorite Bible verse?

A: Isaiah 61:1-2

Q: What’s your Enneagram number?

A: I’m a 2w1

Q: What’s Your favorite playlist?

A: Jonathan David & Melissa Helser, & Housefires

Q: What is a book you read that positively impacted your life?

A: Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Engaging with your mental health:

This varies from person to person. For Daniel, nature, scripture, and keeping a tally of owl sightings is a selection of ways he likes to engage with his own mental health. Daniel heavily relies on “centering prayer- inviting Jesus into every aspect” of life, and pursuing “union with God” because “it’s from the place of union [he has] a better understanding of God”. When engaging with your own mental health, it’s important to find tools or “coping skills” that benefit you, and your lifestyle. Something doesn’t have to be “wrong” or traumatic to engage in mental health conversations or to see a therapist/ counselor. Regularly checking in on yourself during the day helps to bring awareness to what’s going on in your mind, body, and in life in general.

When my soul is noisy, I give back those things to Jesus

Benevolent detachment

Another tool of Daniel’s is implementing benevolent detachment, which is the practice of “giving back to Jesus the people and things we are unnecessarily carrying, as we are able to approach those areas from a place of union with Jesus, rather than trying to do it on our own.” It is a simple practice to give your soul a breather, and a kind reminder of who is God amidst the pressures of everyday life. Most of us carry much more than we were ever intended to, operating at the pace and storage of smartphones, as we have limits to our soul’s capacity to love and empathize. “Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.”” This is has been a rescue for me.”

Jesus is teaching me how to be an apprentice in this area. I have more of my soul to give to other people because God has given me more of myself.

How to carry this out:

  • Take “two, five minute pauses per day”.

  • Use this as an “invitation to simply pause, and give things back to Him, and breathe”.

  • This routine helps to “care for [the] soul”

From my few encounters with Daniel, and our conversation I know whichever path he chooses after grad school- whether it be a pastoral role, missions, and organizations, or inner city/ at risk youth work, he will transform lives, and showcase the grace, and love of Jesus Christ.

digging deeper:

Below are a few reflection questions to sit with or journal.

  1. How am I creating space in my life, and for men to talk about/ engage in mental health?

  2. How are my words/ actions championing men to feel comfortable sharing their emotions, and mental health journey?

  3. What are ways I can break the stigma, today? 

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