The Future of Men’s Mental Health

by
Photo by Dan Meyers / Unsplash.com

Part 2—Mental Health Crises Are Putting Everyone At Risk

            This is the second part of a multi-part series on “The Future of Men’s Mental Health.” I have been concerned about men’s mental health since I was five years old and my mid-life father took an overdose of sleeping pills after he had become increasingly depressed when he couldn’t support  his family doing what he loved. In Part 1 of this series, “Men and Mental Health, What Are We Missing?”, I detailed recent research showing the problems that have been neglected up until now.

            In a previous series of articles, “Healer Heal Thyself: Why Health Care Professionals Are Becoming Stressed, Depressed, and Suicidal,” I describe the challenging realities facing health-care professionals as well as those who seek them out for health support and healing.  In Part 1, I noted:

“Health care workers compared with non-healthcare workers have greater risks for mental health problems and long-term work absences due to mental disorders, and are at increased risk of suicide, compared with workers in other fields.”

“Our results extend earlier research from outside the United States that health care workers compared with non-healthcare workers have greater risks for mental health problems and long-term work absences due to mental disorders,” said Mark Olfson, MD, MPH, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Public Health and professor of Psychiatry, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “The importance of increased suicide risk of health care support workers is underscored by their growth from nearly 4 million in 2008 to 6.6 million in 2021.”

            Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician, author, and expert in physician suicide prevention. In her book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered, she says, “I’ve been a doctor for twenty years. I’ve not lost a single patient to suicide. I’ve lost only colleagues, friends, lovers–ALL male physicians–to suicide.”

            Males are not the only ones who die by suicide, but we are much more likely to die. Dr. Wible details the reasons that so many doctors and other healthcare professionals die by suicide including the following:

  • Doctoring is more than a job; it’s a calling, an identity.
  • With so much need, we often put the needs of others ahead of our own.
  • Most practitioners become burned out, overworked, or exhausted.
  • Workaholics are admired in medicine and other healthcare professions.
  • Caring for sick people can make us sick if we don’t take care of ourselves.
  • Seeing too much pain and not enough joy is unhealthy.
  • We don’t take very good care of themselves or each other.
  • We don’t acknowledge the reality that we are at high risk of overwork, overwhelm, breakdown, and self-harm.

            These issues are not only prevalent in males, but there are sex differences that we need to understand and address. According to Marianne J. Legato, MD, Founder of the Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine,

“Until now, we’ve acted as though men and women were essentially identical except for the differences in their reproductive function. In fact, information we’ve been gathering over the past ten years tells us that this is anything but true, and that everywhere we look, the two sexes are startingly and unexpectedly different not only in their normal function but in the ways they experience illness.”

            In Part 2  of the series, I talk about the future of gender-specific healthcare and describe my interview with Dr. Legato, who told me,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

I also described my interview with Richard V. Reeves, author of, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It and founder of American Institute for Boys and Men (AIBM). Reeves says,

“It became clear to me that the problems of boys and men are structural in nature, rather than individual; but are rarely treated as such. The problem with men is typically framed as a problem of men. It is men who must be fixed, one man or boy at a time. This individualist approach is wrong.”

            In Part 3, I discuss the unique times we are living in today where rapid change of modern life have created a unique set of mental health problems that must be solved on a systemic as well as a personal level.  The futurist, Alvin Toffler called the problem Future Shock and said,

“It will not be found in Index Medicus or in any listing of psychological abnormalities. Yet, unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it, millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments. The malaise, mass neurosis, irrationality, and free-floating violence already apparent in contemporary life are merely a foretaste of what may lie ahead unless we come to understand and treat this disease.”

            Toffler notes that Future Shock results when societies are faced with too much change in too short a time. Not only are we being overwhelmed with the rate of change in our lives, but also the overwhelming complexity of our social systems that  can lead to collapse of entire civilizations. Rebecca C. Costa describes the effects of complexity in her groundbreaking book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse. The result is a critical increase in fear and anxiety, which impacts everyone.

            In his book, Anxious: Using The Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety, Joseph LeDoux, one of the world’s leading mental health experts says,

“Collectively fear and anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of all psychiatric problems in the United States, affecting about twenty  percent of the population with an associated economic cost estimated to exceed $40 billion annually.”

            Dr. Wendy Suzuki is a professor of neural science and psychology at the Center for Neural Science at New York University, says,

“We live in an age of anxiety. Like an omnipresent, noxious odor we’ve grown used to, anxiety has become a constant condition, a fact of life on this planet. From global pandemics to crashing economies, to intense, daily family challenges, we have plenty of justifiable reasons to feel anxious.”

            The effects of all these changes are causing social and political upheavals. On April 7, 2024, The Morning Show on CBS aired a segment on the new movie, “Civil War” which follows a team of journalists who travel across the United States during a rapidly escalating Second American Civil War, that has engulfed the entire nation. It offers an unflinching look at a nation divided and violent, not in the 1860s, but today. The movie is a warning about potential things to come and like all wars, males are the main combatants.

Bringing Healers and Health-Seekers Together in Community

            It is becoming increasingly clear that the separation between “healers” and “those seeking help” is an artificial divide. We are all in need of help and support in addressing mental health issues and we are all able to learn to help ourselves and others. I believe it is time to bring healers and seekers together. In a recent article, “The Future of Mental Health: Bringing Together Health Seekers and Providers,” I noted the following:

            “We are living in crazy times, where the whole world seems angry, anxious, stressed, and depressed and things are getting worse. In 2018 the American Psychological Association surveyed a thousand U.S. adults about their sources and levels of anxiety. The APA found that 39% of Americans reported being more anxious than they were in 2017, and an equal amount (39%) had the same level of anxiety as the previous year. That’s nearly 80% of the population experiencing anxiety.

What are people most concerned about? The APA survey reported that:

  • 68% worried about health and safety.
  • 67% reported finances as their source of anxiety.
  • 56% were stressed about our political system and elections.

            The APA also found that 63% of Americans felt that the future of the nation was a large source of stress. 59% checked the box that “the United States is at the lowest point they can remember in history.”

            Men in the United States die by suicide, on average, at a rate four times higher than women. But the suicide rate for men is even higher in older age groups.

            Clearly with statistics like these, we can no longer view “mental illness” as simply a problem of individuals. We are experiencing a problem of whole systems collapsing and we need to develop new systems to bring about repair. My colleague, Margaret J. Wheatley, author of the book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership says,

“Our task is to create Islands of Sanity, both internally and within our sphere of influence, where sanity prevails, where people can recall and practice the best human qualities of generosity, caring, creativity, and community.”

            It seems both appropriate and timely that we create a health community focused on men’s mental health as an “island of sanity” that can offer support and services to heal men, as well as our families, communities, and the world.

            We need a new approach for addressing men’s mental health issues. In the next parts of this series, I will address the important topic of depression and anxiety. I will examine the differences between the ways males express their dis-ease and wounds verses the way females do so. If you’d like to read more articles like these, please visit me at MenAlive.com and receive our free newsletter with new articles and tools you can use to improve your mental, emotional, and relational health. 

The post The Future of Men’s Mental Health appeared first on MenAlive.

Related Posts