The Silent War: Stigma Around Men's Mental Health

April 27, 2024 (1mo ago)

We live in a world where men are expected to silently carry a heavy burden. When it comes to being able to discuss what they are going through, what you will commonly hear is that men are rarely listened to and are expected to be stoic and keep our emotions bottled up and just deal with whatever is going on. “Man up” as it is put. Now personally, I have no issue with “tough love.” Manning up is not necessarily a terrible thing. However, once the idea of a guy admitting he needs help has become so visceral, so “unmanly” that taking his own life is seen as a better option... we have a problem. With men having nowhere to go, no one to talk to, the outcomes have become quite dark and something that must be addressed. As a man who has suffered his own fair share in life, I am determined to start the conversation of this epidemic stealing our brothers, fathers, sons and more from us at a horrifying rate and hopefully save some lives.

The Dark Truth

There are a couple of facts about this situation we must address first as they are not only of utmost importance, but it involves one of the heaviest topics involving this issue. Suicide. Here are some of the cold hard truths we must face head on:

According to the men's help organization: "HeadsUpGuys." HeadsUpGuys, n.d., (https://headsupguys.org/suicide-in-men/suicide-stats-men/#ref). And the statistics company Statista: "Male Suicide Rate in the U.S. by Age Group." Statista, n.d., https://www.statista.com/statistics/1114191/male-suicide-rate-in-the-us-by-age-group/.

  1. Men account for 79% of all suicides in the United States, amounting to roughly 105 men who die by suicide every day.
  2. Suicide is the 2nd most common cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the USA.
  3. In 2019, the overall suicide rate among U.S. men was 22.4 per 100,000 population, the highest rate recorded in almost 70 years.
  4. The suicide rate is highest among men aged 65 and older, at around 31 per 100,000 in 2019.
  5. Men aged 45-64 had the second highest suicide rate of around 28 per 100,000 in 2019.2
  6. In the year before, only 35% of men sought care from a mental health practitioner on average.
  7. Around 9.8 million adult men in the USA reported having serious thoughts of suicide in 2015.

So, as you can see, this is a matter of life or death. My hope is that by starting this conversation and getting out as much information on the topic as possible, we can start to turn around these heart-breaking statistics. The fact nobody is screaming these numbers from the rooftops still baffles me. It is the struggle men face that I refer to as “The Silent War.”

The Silent War

We use the phrase “The Silent War” at DSTP. What that phrase means is that men everywhere in all walks of life are suffering similar fates that no one is talking about and that they themselves cannot discuss. Mental health issues, ranging from depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and more that they feel they have zero outlet to ask for help from. Zero way of being able to discuss what they are going through without scaring those around them. Zero people who understand because men do not talk to other men about this issue in fear of being seen as weak or lesser.

Therapy is commonly seen as a laughable idea among men. To think that another person would be able to help us fix something we should be able to fix on our own? On top of that be seen as and mocked as crazy amongst our peers if ever found out? Yeah, I don’t think so. It goes to show as the Priory Group reported 40% of men will not reach out for help when suffering from a mental illness. ("40% of Men Won’t Talk to Anyone About Their Mental Health." Priory Group, n.d., https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/40-of-men-wont-talk-to-anyone-about-their-mental-health ) Not to mention that this increase in suicide is not being really talked about by any mainstream platforms, media, or politicians. This is what I mean by silent war. No outlet, no internal network, no hope. These fellow soldiers in this silent war choose to rather lay down their shields and give up the fight then feel weaker amongst their fellow man. This must stop. What we plan to do here at DSTP is make sure that this silent war becomes a lot louder.

What Can Be Done

Luckily, even with things as dire as they may seem, I still believe there is hope. The first step to solving a problem is admitting we have one. Now, with that being said along with everything else I already discussed; this will not be an easy task. With the amount of fear of being seen as weak, how is one to be able to discuss their own internal plight? Here are some ways I can think of:

  1. We Start the Discussion. This only happens if guys feel in a place where they can say what is really going on and not get criticized or mocked for being vulnerable. Luckily, these kinds of platforms are growing and if you are reading this, you are on one of those right now. There is a level of courage required from us here though. We ourselves are responsible for asking for help when there are outlets available. No matter what we still need to try. That is why, even with my cornucopia of injuries and scars and mental health issues I still tell my story. I feel people need to know it is ok to be different, to have gone through some shit. Your past does not define you and every day you can get stronger and keep moving forward. And hopefully through my resilience and lessons learned through my own trials, I can prevent others from having to go through the same things alone like I did.

  2. We Arm Ourselves with Knowledge. Most men are quite capable. They do not need their hand held through most of their battles. They made it this far; they can do pretty well without help. However, give this same man the knowledge on how to overcome his own struggles? You have just created a soldier who will carry that spear of resilience with him for the rest of his life. There are some battles we face that require some outside assistance. Let it be us just talking, or something more such as therapy or medicine. Once the actual resources are in the hands of the people who need help, I can only see things getting better. People do not want to be sick. Give them the choice and they will fight back. We are adding a resources page to the DSTP website soon, where you can search by state what local resources are available to you when needed. Look for that coming soon.

  3. We create a community. People are lonelier than ever nowadays. The internet and smart devices have allowed a human to get so much stimulus that they do not need to go make friends. Online relationships have replaced real ones, and the fakeness of the internet is destroying what social skills anyone has. With all of this, I feel a place where people can see that they are not alone in their struggles and are actually part of a growing community of courageous people willing to speak out against the stigma that just because of their gender they must suffer in silence. That is why with my platform on all my social media channels and my website dontsurrendertopain.com I hope to create that place where my setting of the groundwork that even a guy as messed up as me can still be accepted and even thrive after speaking aloud about what is going on with me. Both physical and mental issues I have post getting shot. If other warriors in this silent battle can speak up with me, and together we can start a movement of people tired of being quiet and tired of having to keep their pain a secret. I can only do that with the help of all of you though.

Final Thoughts

As someone who has gone through the mental health system, court system and drug and rehab system as a white cis gender male in the USA, I can say that it definitely is a “you're on your own” type system. However, starting the conversation and making the ability for this topic to be discussed is a life mission of mine now. And I truly do believe that we can change that system. Together, if we speak out when we are hurting and start letting others do the same, I think we can really change a lot and save a lot of lives.