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We Asked A Psychologist What We Should Know About Men's Mental Health, And Here's What He Said

The saying, "Men have two emotions: Fine or mad," is a common misconception.

Recently, some Twitter users have been memeing these post-breakup pics of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson and they've gone pretty viral:

Saying stuff like...

And TBH, it's made me think a lot about men and how we, as a society, treat their mental health:

Twitter: In light of Mac Miller’s death we need to encourage men to talk about their experiences with mental health and offer support systems to control the rising rate of male suicide Also Twitter:

Especially since Pete is super open about living with a mental illness.

So what I'm wondering is, what should we know about men's mental health, and how should we change how we talk about it?

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To find out, I reached out to Dr. Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, California, who gave me insight into how we can all try to understand and change the dialogue around men's mental health.

And before we get started, mental health issues affect everyone differently, no matter your gender — but studies and statistics show that there are significant differences in how men and women deal with things like depression, anxiety, and stress. These struggles are deeply personal, and although the notes in this post are limited to the sample of clients Dr. Howes sees in his practice, we hope you find some solace in knowing others might be going through what you are — or that it helps you think a little differently about the men in your life.

While the experiences on this list can apply to all men, cis and trans, they certainly don't cover all the specific mental health issues trans men deal with. Read more about transgender mental health here.

1. The most common issues men deal with are self-control, self-esteem, and relationships.

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"Those struggling with self-control issues are trying to control an addiction or conquer procrastination or start a new, healthy habit. They often want therapy to be a place of guidance and accountability. Those struggling with self-esteem issues are working through past shame, challenging the beliefs they’ve often held for decades, and trying to accept and embrace the man they are today. And many of my male clients have had difficulty in relationships, particularly where the communication of emotion is concerned."

2. Men are often aware that "something is off" with them, but they won't recognize that "something" as a mental illness.


"A woman may be more aware of what’s happening internally, and want some support and strategies to help them cope, while many men know that 'something is off' but they’re not yet aware they’ve been depressed or anxious or are under a tremendous amount of pressure. I’ve had many sessions where men discover the problems they hadn’t previously been aware of — like that their 'tough' father was actually physically abusive, that their workload is impossibly high, or that the reason they can’t sleep is due to an anxiety disorder, for example."

3. Men tend to suppress emotion whereas women tend to express emotion.

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"Many men experience a problem and believe it’s completely up to them to solve it, while women are much better able to ask for help and collaborate as a team instead of tackling it alone.

For example, I once worked with a man who was the victim of a traumatic event at his work and didn’t seek help from anyone else. He withdrew from friends and family because the script in his head said it was up to him to overcome the trauma, not burden anyone else with it, and try not let it bother him any longer. When his sleeplessness and irritability became a problem he sought counseling, and by talking it out with me and a few friends he eventually felt better."

4. Men tend to only talk about their problems after they've reached a conclusion.


"Another generalization that I often see in my practice is that women talk through a problem in order to come to a solution, while men think through a problem and only talk after they’ve reached their conclusion. Again, this makes problem-solving an internal, isolated process instead of a collaborative one. I think many men do this because they are afraid of looking weak if they are indecisive or can’t find a solution."

5. Communication in relationships can be a major struggle for them.

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"For many men, it’s often not the presence or experience of emotion that is a problem, it’s the communication of that emotion to someone else. A lot of times, the men know exactly how they feel and what they want to say, but they’re afraid to say it because they don’t want to hurt their partner or are afraid of their response."

6. Many men may turn to drugs, alcohol, and/or porn because they cause them to physically and emotionally detach.


"The highly stressful and competitive nature of many professions, combined with the accepted-to-encouraged practice of coping with stress through drugs and alcohol, is clearly problematic. The fact that asking for help and expressing emotions like sadness and fear are still commonly seen as signs of weakness is a major detriment to the mental and physical health of men."

7. Men tend to see busyness as a badge of honor.


"Both men and women in the US are very stressed out and busy, and unfortunately, 'busy' is our most socially desirable pathology. We talk about our overbooked schedules and inability to set boundaries as a badge of honor and use our busyness as a way to neglect many of our primary needs (sleep, rest, relationships, exercise, etc).

I think men in particular are applauded for showing stoicism in the face of tremendous pressure, and lose status points when they admit to areas of weakness."

8. Saying things like "be a man" and "man up" are harmful and just plain confusing.


"Both are incredibly shaming statements when we're told we lack one of the most basic tenets of our identity. Also, the statements don’t give much in terms of a goal or direction. What kind of man are you looking for? Surely we’re not asking for toxic masculinity, so what does this man we’re upping to look like? Let’s just ask for specific behavior change, or even better, work together to develop a plan, instead of slamming someone at the core of their identity. Shame is not a healthy motivator."

9. One-on-one therapy is intimidating for many men.


"I’d like to continue to develop systems that will help men feel comfortable seeking out mental health solutions. I know that individual, one-on-one therapy is far too intimidating for many men, so I’d love to see people bridge the gap by incorporating mental health into less threatening situations. Maybe a Sunday afternoon NFL/therapy group is not such a bad idea."

10. We often put too much emphasis on men's behavior and not their underlying issues.


"A man may appear to be emotionally detached, for example, and people spend too much time focusing on getting him to emote and not enough time on why he doesn’t emote in the first place."

11. Talking with other men about their stress can be helpful.


"I’ve been fortunate to both facilitate and be a member of male support groups in my lifetime. It’s amazing to see how willing men are to open up once they know they won’t be judged and shamed for having feelings of inadequacy and shame.

I’ve known men who benefit from nearly any group activity (sports teams and poker nights included) if they’re able to move beyond the superficial conversation and talk about how they’re really doing."

12. Journaling helps many men organize their thoughts while providing them with good structure.

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"Journaling can really help men (and women) create a narrative around their feelings and experiences."

13. Recently, more men are exploring the benefits of meditation, yoga, and spirituality.


"An increasing number of men I’ve worked with are joining yoga classes, participating in meditation groups, participating in other spiritual and emotional work like sound baths, or becoming more active in a place of worship."

14. The saying, "Men have two emotions: Fine or mad," is a common misconception.

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"The most common misconception is that men don’t have all the emotions. They do, but they just work extra hard to suppress the majority of them. They’ll show them when they feel like they won’t be judged or criticized, like when they’re in a therapy session with someone they trust.

Men do show their anger because this emotion feels less threatening than the fear that typically precedes it. Anger often feels like strength, but as men who have been in counseling know, it takes much more strength to express sadness and fear than it does anger."

15. At the end of the day, men just want to be "good enough."


"Most of the men I work with just want to feel like they are 'good enough.' A good enough son, a good enough husband, a good enough employee, a good enough father. They’ve felt an injury to that 'good enough' at some point in their lives, and the resulting behaviors may tend toward overcompensation (bragging and know-it-all-ness) or an irritable, depressive slump, which brings it’s own consequences."

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, here are some quick resources:

• You can learn more about starting therapy here since pretty much everyone can benefit from talking to a professional.

• You can learn more about mental illnesses here.

Here are little ways to be less anxious in general and here are some self-care tips.

• And if you need to talk to someone immediately, the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A list of international suicide hotlines can be found here.

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