Men should take charge of their emo­tional health

Men, take charge of your men­tal health be­fore it turns into…

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS - Anuneet Sab­har­wal MBBS, MD, Psy­chi­a­try

Gen­der roles and so­ci­etal trends en­sure that men are tra­di­tion­ally por­trayed as the stronger sex. They are more prone to giv­ing greater im­por­tance to phys­i­cal fit­ness rather than men­tal health. Men are less likely to in­tro­spect, and of­ten ig­nore what can be po­ten­tial trig­gers to men­tal health is­sues. Men dis­play ten­den­cies to stay silent, and are more likely to try not to ac­knowl­edge a “cri­sis” till it’s too late. Nu­mer­ous re­searchers have re­cently stated that there is a silent cri­sis in men’s men­tal health. This is based on ro­bust ev­i­dence that men have high rates of var­i­ous men­tal health is­sues. Re­search in­di­cates that many men fall vic­tim to sub­stance abuse in re­sponse to stress­ful life tran­si­tions, in­clud­ing un­em­ploy­ment and di­vorce. In­deed, the di­vorce rate in In­dia has sky­rock­eted in re­cent times. This, cou­pled with neg­li­gi­ble men­tal health ser­vice use, has led to our cur­rent state of cri­sis.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that men are sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to use men­tal health ser­vices in re­sponse to a men­tal health is­sue in com­par­i­son with women. In other words, men who are sui­ci­dal or have sub­stance abuse prob­lems are much more likely to suf­fer in si­lence.

Why are men con­di­tioned to en­dure men­tal agony silently?

Men have been so con­di­tioned by con­ven­tional be­hav­iour, that they refuse to talk about what both­ers them, and do not feel com­fort­able dis­cussing is­sues that make them up­set or de­pressed. They are taught that they should not cry or ex­press emo­tions freely, as it is un­manly and is judged as a sign of weak­ness. Although the rate of de­pres­sion is lower in men, they are more likely not to seek help and may even be driven to sui­cide. For in­stance, men dis­play symp­toms of de­pres­sion dif­fer­ently than women. l They may be­come ir­ri­ta­ble and snap at fam­ily mem­bers and col­leagues ir­ra­tionally. l Some take to al­co­hol or other sub­stances. Ex­ces­sive smok­ing and drink­ing that is not ha­bit­ual, may be an in­di­ca­tor of stress. l Many men com­plain of back pain or headache, that may linger even af­ter treat­ment. These may be symp­toms of un­der­ly­ing anx­i­ety, stress or de­pres­sion. l In­som­nia is com­mon. l There may be in­stances of road rage and reck­less be­hav­iour. l Men tend to with­draw from friends and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties. They are less in­clined to go­ing out and pre­fer to stay at home, some­times binge watch­ing tele­vi­sion. l Some men may face a de­cline in sex­ual de­sire, and suf­fer im­po­tence too. This may be a strong in­di­ca­tion of high stress lev­els and de­pres­sion. Most men see men­tal health is­sues as a weak­ness and refuse to take help. It is im­per­a­tive that trusted fam­ily and friends take prompt ac­tion, and gen­tly nudge them to seek help.

What can be done to im­prove men’s men­tal health?

The most im­por­tant thing is to make it clear to the af­fected man, that it is al­right to have is­sues, and that they can be helped. Make them un­der­stand that de­pres­sion or other men­tal health is­sues are com­mon and can be treated. It is im­por­tant to per­suade them

Re­search in­di­cates that many men fall vic­tim to sub­stance abuse in re­sponse to stress­ful life tran­si­tions, in­clud­ing un­em­ploy­ment and di­vorce.

to see a physi­cian who may guide them to seek pro­fes­sional help from a psy­chi­a­trist or coun­sel­lor. l Firstly, men’s men­tal health should be recog­nised as a so­cial is­sue as much as a health is­sue, with at­ten­tion be­ing paid to is­sues such as un­em­ploy­ment and fa­mil­ial dis­rup­tion. l There should be more choice in the for­mal men­tal health sys­tem, with more male­tai­lored op­tions that re­spond to men’s unique needs. l It is im­por­tant to help the male child from a young age to talk and ex­press their feel­ings. There needs to be a 360 de­gree change in the way men are taught to per­ceive man­li­ness. Par­ents need to be con­scious about in­cul­cat­ing ways and means in their male child’s psy­che to learn, iden­tify and ex­press emo­tions in a healthy man­ner. l A strong so­cial net­work is an ideal safety net that helps in­di­vid­u­als re­main happy and con­nected. A sense of iso­la­tion is the main cul­prit be­hind many men­tal health is­sues. It is im­por­tant to have some­one to reach out to in times of stress or im­pend­ing de­pres­sion. l Ex­er­cise has re­cently achieved the sta­tus of an anti-de­pres­sant. A healthy life­style may be key to keep­ing one men­tally fit. Some food like dark choco­late, fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles have shown promise in man­ag­ing mood dis­or­ders. Learn­ing to use stress man­age­ment tech­niques like med­i­ta­tion or yoga may ben­e­fit both phys­i­cal and men­tal health. l It is as im­por­tant to main­tain men­tal health as im­por­tant it is to see a med­i­cal doc­tor for a phys­i­cal ail­ment. Af­ter all, sound health com­prises a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Ex­er­cise has re­cently achieved the sta­tus of an anti-de­pres­sant. A healthy life­style may be key to keep­ing one men­tally fit.

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