By: Kevin O’Connor, MS, LPC-IT, MFT-IT
By: Kevin O’Connor, MS, LPC-IT, MFT-IT
July 6, 2023

Mentally Fit Men: It’s Time We Talk About Men’s Mental Health

Real men are stoic. They’re doers and fixers, not “feelers.” They don’t show emotions. And they definitely don’t cry.

That’s what we have been told our whole lives, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that is not true.

My name is Kevin O’Connor, LPC-IT, and I created the website MentallyFitMen.com to promote mental health awareness and improve the lives of men and their loved ones. This site started as an advocacy project while I was a student in the Master’s in Counselor Education student (with an emphasis on Clinical Mental Health Counseling) at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater.  

As one of only a few men in the counseling program, most of my clients were men who wanted to work with a male therapist. Now in private practice, the majority of my clients are boys and men. There’s a pressing need for more male therapists in the field. But that’s only one of men’s unique barriers to accessing mental health care.

Understanding the Mental Health Care “Gap”

Over 6 million men have depression, but less than one-half of them seek help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Chatmon, 2020). And men are much less likely than women to receive mental health treatment. On average, women got treatment about 28.6% of the time, while men got treatment only about 17.8% of the time (Terlizzi & Schiller, 2022).

Men often shrug off symptoms like irritability, changes in mood or energy levels, and difficulty sleeping. Often that’s because of stereotypes surrounding masculinity and mental health. But, ignoring these symptoms can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness, somatic issues (physical symptoms like pain and fatigue), and even suicide. Men die by suicide nearly four times more than women. In 2018, the suicide rate was 22.8 per 100,000 men (Oliffe et al., 2019). And male veterans and LGBTQ men are at an even higher risk.

Not recognizing symptoms as well as not understanding the benefits of therapy can prevent men from seeking counseling as an option for them. Even when they do seek help, additional barriers, such as long wait times, the limited availability of male therapists, and financial constraints, can make it difficult for men to get the help they need.

Reducing Stigma

There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding men’s mental health based on gender stereotypes, misconceptions, discrimination, and more:

Gender stereotypes: In some societies, traditional gender roles dictate that men should be strong, stoic, and unemotional. Men may avoid discussing their feelings and seeking help for mental health issues because they’ll be seen as weak or vulnerable.

Misconceptions: Myths about mental illness—such as it’s a sign of weakness or that it’s a choice—can be particularly harmful to men. They may feel pressure to follow traditional gender roles and hide their personal struggles.

Lack of representation and resources: Men’s mental health is often underrepresented in media, research, and public discussion. This can make it difficult for men to recognize when they’re experiencing mental health issues and find resources and support.

Fear of discrimination: Some men worry that seeking mental health help could lead to discrimination in their personal or professional lives, like losing their job or being ostracized by their friends and family.

BIPOC, LGBTQ, and older men, or men who are veterans or disabled often face additional stigmas and discrimination. I included further information and resources on the site. 

Finding Help

Prioritizing your mental health and seeking treatment can not only help your emotional well-being but it can also lead to better physical health, improved relationships, and increased productivity and professional success.

MentallyFitMen.com provides men with a site dedicated to their mental health needs, addressing their most prevalent issues: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, relationships, anger, and burnout. You’ll find practical information, resources, blog posts, and organizations that can help you find local mental health providers.

As a man, I know how important it has been to address my mental health and I am here to tell you it is ok to address yours.

References

Chatmon, B. N. (2020). Males and mental health stigma. American Journal of Men’s Health, 14(4), 155798832094932. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988320949322

Oliffe, J. L., Rossnagel, E., Seidler, Z. E., Kealy, D., Ogrodniczuk, J. S., & Rice, S. M. (2019). Men’s depression and suicide. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(10), 103. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1088-y

Terlizzi, E., & Schiller, J. (2022). Mental health treatment among adults aged 18–44: United states, 2019–2021. National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.). https://doi.org/10.15620/cdc:120293

Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O’Connor, MS, LPC-IT, MFT-IT

Kevin O’Connor, MS, LPC-IT, MFT-IT

Kevin O'Connor, MS, LPC-IT, MFT-IT is a dedicated mental health counselor and founder of mentallyfitmen.com. With a Master's degree in Counselor Education, he specializes in men's mental health, working with individuals aged 10 and up, couples, and diverse populations. Through his blog, he challenges the stigma surrounding men's mental health. Kevin strives to empower clients, promote self-discovery, and develop practical strategies for personal growth.