May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. These four weeks are dedicated to spreading awareness and fighting stigma, tearing away its false foundations. While anyone who has a mental illness is affected by this stigma, men's mental health is scrutinized by society, and they are often forced to suffer in silence.
Austin Lockhart is a 22-year-old man who has struggled with depression and anxiety for several years. He has dealt with his mental health struggles in solitude, fearing judgment due to society's views on gender roles and masculinity.
As he continued to avoid treatment, Lockhart faced a dire situation. It became clear that he was in a mental health crisis. Coming to grips with the severity of his condition, he realized it was time to ask for help. While seeking professional treatment allowed Lockhart to begin to heal, some of his sufferings could have been alleviated sooner if the stigma had been erased from our culture.
"Nobody talks about men's mental health because of views on masculinity. I was scared to reach out for help, and I would keep it inside, feeling down on myself every single day. It got to the point where everything was just too much, and I had to reach out for help. It was probably the best thing I've ever done," said Lockhart.
Society's expectations of men perpetuate the stigma attached to men's mental health. Men feel obligated to be strong and self-reliant, never asking for help or shedding a tear. Emotion is a human condition that men are taught to ignore at all costs, even if they end up paying with their lives.
The stigmatization of men's mental health creates barriers that cause men suffering from mental illness to turn to unhealthy and harmful coping mechanisms like drug use, alcohol abuse, and self-harm. Unfortunately, along with being at risk of participating in these dangerous behaviors, men are also at a greater risk of suicide.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts and self-injurious behavior, it is essential to know that you are never alone, even when it feels like you are. There are always resources and support available, and there is always hope. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.
Kevin Huang is a student at Purdue University who has seen the harm that the stigma attached to men's mental health causes. Throughout college, he has seen many of his male peers struggle with mental health, refusing to seek help from campus counselors and other resources. Huang believes the stigma behind men's mental health caused many of his peers to think they had to endure their struggles alone.
Huang explains that the first step towards ending the stigma is breaking down barriers by spreading awareness of men's mental health, giving men ways to tell their stories, educating the public, and validating other men's experiences.
"The first step in combating this stigma is raising awareness about it and teaching others why this stigma needs to be combated and taken down. The more we talk about mental health and hear about stories, the more ways we can think about how to combat it and begin to help one another," said Huang.
We need to come together as a society to create a culture where men feel comfortable seeking help and opening up about their struggles, working together to promote awareness, acceptance, and support for men struggling with mental health issues.
Chyann Klahs is a recent graduate with dual bachelor's degree in Communication and Journalism. She has a passion for writing articles and poetry that leaves a lasting impact. Her goal is to educate and empower others through her writing and promote change!
Planted, not Buried is a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering, educating, and inspiring others through access to outreach, events, networking, and opportunities. Learn more at www.plantednb.com, https://linktr.ee/plantednb , or follow us on all social media at @PlantedNB.