Breaking Stigmas: Men's Mental Health

Breaking Stigmas: Men’s Mental Health

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

There are many stigmas surrounding men’s mental health. These stigmas arise from underlying societal beliefs, such as that men should be strong and unaffected by their struggles or traumas. Nevertheless, these stigmas and the resulting lack of adequate care can be extremely detrimental. Men who are coping with mental health problems or substance use disorder (SUD) are not “any less of a man,” nor are they “weak.” It is important to address and break these stigmas in order to encourage men to seek treatment so they can live their best lives.

First Steps Recovery offers gender-specific care in an entirely judgment-free environment. Clients, men and women alike, are encouraged to participate in all of the services offered and find what works best for them. Creating a positive and healthy life is of utmost importance at First Steps Recovery no matter who the client is.

Stigmas Surrounding Men’s Mental Health

It is important to fully understand men’s mental health, the stigmas they face, and how to overcome these stigmas in order to improve men’s mental health overall. The stigmas that men experience surrounding mental health can extend to all areas of their lives. Men can experience social stigmas, self-stigmas, professional stigmas, and cultural stigmas.

Social Stigmas

Social stigmas (sometimes called public stigmas) refer to negative attitudes the public has toward a person or group experiencing mental health issues. These attitudes are caused by misconceptions about mental health disorders. One example is the idea that men are “weak” if they are coping with mental health issues.


Self-stigmas are internalized stigmas that result in a person feeling shame or guilt. When a person believes that they shouldn’t have certain feelings, wants, needs, or problems, they can judge themselves harshly. This judgment is often the result of internalizing public stigmas.

Professional and Cultural Stigmas

Professional stigmas can refer to situations in which health care professionals transfer their prejudices to clients, which reinforces stigmas.

One’s culture is also a huge factor that plays into stigmas. Beliefs, values, and norms of one’s racial group, ethnic group, gender, and environment all create stigmas surrounding mental health. This affects how one seeks treatment, whether they seek treatment, and whether they are encouraged to seek treatment.

Many masculine norms also play into this. Men are expected to repress emotions, act aggressively or violently, be dominant, seek power, and be “better” than women. These expectations, however, can lead to a number of detrimental effects.

Men’s Mental Health

About one in five adults in America experience mental health issues every year, though in those statistics, men’s mental health is often overlooked. In fact, men’s mental health often goes untreated as they are far less likely to seek treatment compared to women.

About six million men are affected by depression and men have a four times higher suicide rate than women. They also experience alcohol-related deaths more often than women. Many of these differences between men’s and women’s mental health are because men feel discouraged, embarrassed, or unwilling to seek treatment.

Due to the expectations placed on men, men may experience:

  • Continuing substance abuse
  • Worsening depression or anxiety
  • Greater health risks, including cardiovascular disease
  • Issues with intimacy and relationships
  • Problems with interpersonal violence
  • An increase in psychological distress
  • Discouragement in seeking help
  • Homophobia

Supporting Men’s Health by Redefining Masculinity and Destigmatizing Seeking Care

In order to alleviate men of their mental health burdens, manhood and masculinity must be redefined. What’s more, it is crucial to find facilities, therapists, doctors, and specialists that encourage mental health treatment, healing, and recovery.

An empathetic, welcoming environment is key to destigmatizing men’s mental health. Men are more likely to disclose their experiences with others in a safe space where discussing these topics is encouraged and normal. First Steps Recovery creates a safe space in which men who are coping with mental health disorders can be vulnerable and begin to heal.

Treatment at First Steps Recovery

First Steps Recovery offers treatment for all genders. Clinical and holistic care services are offered to encourage a whole-person approach to healing and provide clients with coping mechanisms for a healthy life. One of the clinical services offered that may benefit men is group therapy.

Group therapy allows clients to talk about their experiences with others who may share similar experiences. For men, finding a group therapy session where other men are also sharing their mental health experiences can be greatly beneficial. In this setting, discussion about mental health – from disclosing difficult experiences to suggesting ways to heal – encourages men to be open about their experiences and realize they are normal. Men can find community with each other and uplift one another in order to create healthy lives.

First Steps Recovery offers many holistic services, including creative therapies and nature-based therapies. Men are often told to suppress their emotions and feelings. However, holistic care gives men an outlet for expressing themselves in different ways. Sometimes stigmas make open discussion, even in a safe environment, difficult for men. Holistic therapies, such as art therapy, help them gather a deeper understanding of self and use creative means to express their vulnerability.

Here at First Steps Recovery, we work to create a positive, welcoming, and nonjudgmental environment for both men and women to heal. Men face may stigmas when it comes to their mental health. They are often told to “man up” or to “stop being weak.” These are dangerous notions and can lead to men experiencing much worse mental health symptoms. However, we at First Steps Recovery work to break these stigmas and create and environment that promotes healing for all of our clients. Men may find that group therapies and holistic therapies help them open up in a way that feels more comfortable for them. Please call (844) 489-0836 for more information about our services.

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