The majority of those who go to therapy are women. And while fewer men present in therapy, those that do come for many of the same reasons that women do: Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Loss, and relationship issues for example and men are affected by these just as deeply as women.
The statistics for male mental health are significant. A 2015 EU Central Statistics Office survey reported Ireland as having the highest level in Europe of a recent episode of chronic depression at 12% of our population at that time. The rate for men was 10.8%. Also, suicide continues to be a major concern here with a 2017 survey reflecting that 4 out of 5 suicides are by males.
Some believe that cultural and societal norms and beliefs around masculinity may be a barrier to men seeking help for themselves. Acknowledging that you are struggling, asking for help, and then talking at length about your emotions is difficult for most people but if your idea of masculinity is modeled on an ‘I can deal with this’ image, the very idea of therapy can be difficult to even consider.
Also, men may not have the same awareness around their own wellbeing as women and may not realise until their emotional crisis is severe that they need some psychological support. As children, boys learn from their parents and other adults that they should not express their vulnerability and they often don’t have the skills to accurately identify or articulate their own feelings. Crying in boys is frowned upon and emotional control applauded. Often the role model has been to soldier on in the face of difficulty and stay in control of your emotions. This approach runs contrary to what is involved in engaging in meaningful therapy.
Stigma can also be an obstacle for men considering therapy. While it is considered acceptable for women to seek help with emotional issues, men can fear judgement around what they can interpret for themselves as a display of weakness or inability to cope. They may feel cautious about sharing this information with a work colleague or boss for fear of appearing weak because they have been unable to solve their problems on their own.
Yet personal growth is for all. And everyone benefits from being able to accurately identify and talk about their feelings. It builds communication between partners and families, deepens relationships and bridges internal loneliness. It provides a repertoire of language to explore the inner self to bring about greater self awareness.
We live in a time where male identity is less clearly defined than before. Historical constructions of society are fundamentally patriarchal but more contemporary society has brought changes to this and traditional role models of how to be a man are no longer valid in the same way. An old familiar order has broken down and there is a transition under way to a new kind of identity for men – and one that is still a work in progress. Therapy, and the skills it can provide can enable and support this evolution so that men can confidently go forward and explore the kind of person they want to be and this is incredibly empowering and liberating.
For help with any issue causing emotional distress see our Find a Therapist page.