Movember has picked up momentum in recent years. In this article, we will be looking at some of the myths surrounding men’s mental health, which often times hinder seeking help.
Myth 1: Men do not feel sad
We will be starting off with possibly the most common misconception: men do not feel sad. Men can feel just as sad as women, and this is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a sign that a man should just “man up”. Imposing the idea that only women can suffer from depression is detrimental to men’s mental health. Depression is a real illness and it requires treatment, just like any other physical ailment.
▪️ Men made up 80% of suicide rates in Malta from 2015 to 2018. 9% of all men reported feelings daily symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In many European countries, risk factors for depression are the same for both men and women, including a disadvantaged socioeconomic status and family-related factors (such as being divorced, separated or widowed).
Myth 2: Men do not need therapy or medication
Just like with any other physical ailment, mental health problems such as depression require treatment. Therapy and medication are just two of the many treatment options for depression. Accepting and getting help is the first step towards recovery!
Myth 3: Men do not suffer from certain mental health conditions
Many believe that certain mental health disorders such as Eating Disorders only affect women. Doctors are more likely to diagnose women compared with men, even though they present with the same symptoms. Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part because they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t suffer from eating disorders. Eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females.
Myth 4: Only women suffer from post-partum depression
8-10% of all fathers experience post-partum depression. The challenges faced by the new mother such as dealing with lack of sleep and new responsibilities, are also experienced by the new father.
During pregnancy and after the child’s birth, men too can experience hormonal changes. Although these are meant to increase father-child bonding, they can at times increase symptoms of depression. Risk factors include a history of depression, marital difficulties, unwanted pregnancy and poverty. Whereas women are more likely to turn this sadness inward, men are more likely to turn this sadness outward, through anger, irritability, substance abuse and anxiety.
Click here to read more on the mental health of new fathers.
Myth 5: Men cannot be victims of domestic violence
Men can be victims of domestic violence. Reports from 2018 showed that almost 1 in 4 domestic violence reports filed to the police are done by men in Malta. We know from international studies that 1 in 4 men experience some form of physical abuse from their partner and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical abuse. A number of factors can contribute to an underrepresentation in data. The victim can ashamed to speak up or is scared that they will lose custody of the children.
Myth 6: Men cannot be victims of rape
More myths related to sexual assaults on men are ‘women cannot rape men’, ‘only gay men are abusers/victims’ and that an erection or ejaculation means that he consented to sex. This is NOT true: In the US, 1 in 71 men has been raped in their lifetime. Men can be victims of assault irrelevant of their physical strength or sexual orientation. Involuntary physiological reactions such as erection or ejaculation can happen under assault, and are not a sign of consent. These myths can hinder victims from reporting violence or speak up about their experience.
Written by Warren Agius and reviewed by Laila Raway, Mental Health Recovery Officers
If you or someone you know is suffering or would like more information, reach out to a professional for support. Our mental health helpline 1770 is available 24/7. If you know someone at risk of harming themselves, please call 112 immediately.