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Mental health disorders do not discriminate: One in every five adults in the United States suffers from a mental health condition. Yet people struggling with mental health—especially men—often view getting help as a sign of weakness. It’s time to end the stigma.
In the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the 8.6 million adults with serious mental illness (SMI) who received mental health treatment, more females—70.5 percent—received treatment than males—56.5 percent.
“Men have been taught to over-perform, use sleep deprivation as a bragging right and hide their stress and anxiety from others. But this thinking is what causes delayed treatment in men and subsequently, disparities in mental health outcomes between men and women,” said Victor Ukwu, M.D., a family medicine physician at Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Haddon Township.
Ignoring symptoms of mental health can cause deeper issues. In 2019, a study found men were four times more likely to die by suicide than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“As a culture, we don’t do well talking about stress, and many men feel it isn’t ‘manly’ to ask for help,” said Dr. Ukwu. “We need to challenge these attitudes to create a new mentality—one where men know asking for help is a sign of strength.”
Knowing When to Ask for Help
Minding your mental health is an intuitive process that starts with understanding your body’s warning signs.
“Your mental health status is a reflection of how you manage stress, among other environmental and personal factors. Over time, your body might present certain symptoms that indicate something is wrong and it’s time to speak with a health care professional—and it’s critical that you don't ignore them,” said Dr. Ukwu.
Assessing your mental health status requires an introspective body scan. For example, ask yourself if you are:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Struggling to stay focused
- Feeling angry or irrational
- Not maintaining proper self-hygiene
- Noticing changes in your eating habits
- Lacking motivation for activities you once loved
- Having difficulty remembering things
If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s important to speak to a health care provider about how you’re feeling. “It can feel impossible to diagnose and treat an ‘invisible’ illness. The truth is, it’s very possible. And it starts with reaching out for help,” said Dr. Ukwu.
The best way to treat your condition is to find a plan that works for you. There is no one way to approach managing your mental health. “Not everyone with a mental health condition needs medication, support groups or weekly therapy. The best treatment plan for you is the one you decide works for your lifestyle,” said Dr. Ukwu.
Remember: It’s okay to not be okay. Learn more about how Inspira Health Behavioral and Mental Health services can help manage your mental health.