The role of men has been portrayed from the early days of the caveman as the active hunter and protector of the family. Throughout history, the general portrayal of men was to be strong, and if he was feeling any emotional distress, he was expected to hold it in and “suck it up.” Boys growing up in the early 1960’s learned from their fathers not to show weakness or complain about how they were feeling. Without the opportunity to share the distress whether it was anger, depression, or any other mental health issue, holding it in increased substance use to dull the pain, family and work conflict, behavior issues, and higher rates of heart attacks, strokes, and suicide. The societal norm was an unconditional acceptance of women showing their emotions, yet men continued to search for their way to bury the pain deep inside.
Following the unwritten rule of silence for many years, the norm was soon to begin a metamorphosis. Throughout the twentieth century and present day, a great deal has changed to provide men information regarding the benefit of seeking help in therapy. While evidenced-based studies have been conducted, and a great deal of positive progress has been made in the field of Mental Health, a norm has begun to develop letting men know it is okay to ask for help. We now watch athletes, actors, and musicians step before the camera and share the internal struggles they have bared for many years as well as the benefit of reaching out for help. Target marketing for mental health services for men has become a healthier option to seek comfort rather than internalizing their distress.
On any given day at any time, we turn on the television, and we see male doctors speaking about mental health, substance abuse, marital conflict, physical health, erectile dysfunction, and other challenges. The internet has given us the opportunity to do our research in the privacy of our own home or office without being placed in the awkward situation where we must ask someone a question. For those men who do not want to enter an office, telehealth allows one to seek help without having to leave the comfort of their own home. Meeting face to face is still the best option, telehealth serves to benefit those client’s unable to reach a professional in a physical location.
As a therapist, observing the patient census increase with more men attending therapy and returning for additional sessions with the goal of finding positive coping skills and solutions to their problems. Having the honor of working with our Veteran’s and listening not only to the stories they share while they were in combat, but the struggle’s they encountered when returning home both emotionally and physically. Additionally, the fear of meeting with a therapist with the intention of letting their suppressed memories come alive again is scary to many, however, through support and self-discovery, the client can learn there are healthier coping skills that will improve their quality of life.
As men seek therapy for anger, anxiety, depression, stress, family and work problems, trauma, substance abuse, divorce, phobias, suicidal ideations, self-esteem, eating disorders, sexual performance, gender identity, LGBTQ issues and other life challenges, one of the first statements I hear from men entering their first session is “I never thought I would come to therapy”, and second is “I really need help.” It warms my heart when I share my response, “You are strong, and taking the first step to make an appointment is only the beginning of the journey.
The field of mental health is blessed with the dedication of men and women who provide services in many ways to clients. As the stressors in the world increase, as men, we need to remember that it is acceptable to say, “I need some help,” and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and perseverance.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Certified Addictions Professional