Last Updated on July 5, 2023 by BVN
Prince James Story
With July recognized as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and June identified as Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, these campaigns aim to foster discussions around self-care and good habits for men to practice regarding their mental health.
In 2021, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that among the 57.8 million adults with AMI (any mental illness), 26.5 million received mental health services. The organization further noted that more women (51.7%) received mental health services than men (40%).
Although women seek professional help more often when dealing with mental illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, men committed suicide four times the rate of women.
In conversations with experts in the field of psychology, they shared knowledge about the stigmas in society related to seeking mental health services and how those vary in different cultures. They also offered some healthy ways for men to work on their mental health and methods to encourage boys and young men to open up and seek help.
Advice from experts
“The moment that somebody needs to take a leave of absence, or the moment that somebody needs to go talk to somebody, especially for men, they’re starting to seem weak, in a lot of different communities — Latin households, the Black community, different communities,” said Omar Gonzalez-Valentino, director of behavioral health at Tru Evolution.
Another expert, Dr. Aerika Loyd, is a professor in the psychology department at the University of California, Riverside, where she focuses on youth and young adults’ experiences around risk and resilience, positive youth development and prevention. Dr. Loyd addressed some of the stigmas prevalent in communities of color and alternative methods to improve one’s mental health besides going to a therapist.
She noted that older generations are more hesitant to seek mental health counselors, unlike younger generations who are more receptive to seeing a counselor. According to Loyd, traditionally, older generations turn to their religion or church to cope with stress or depression.
Another reason that can contribute to someone not seeking mental health counselors or therapists is limited economic and financial resources, she explained.
Additionally, men are often socialized to think about being the provider and the protector. If they’re experiencing economic stress and can’t find a job, some men may not see themselves as capable of fulfilling the provider role, which can contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety, Loyd said.
“Having to navigate that as a man and seeking mental health support can be really tricky because it’s like, ‘okay, how much can I ask for help before I start to look weak?’ Gonzalez-Valentino said.
You Are Not Alone
Dr. Kendrick Davis, vice chair of research for the department of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California, Riverside, acknowledged the constraints of toxic masculinity and the issues associated with it, like being unable to be vulnerable and ask for help.
“Most of us don’t seek therapy. Most of us don’t talk about the problems that we face or the emotions that we’re dealing with. We usually only express things like anger. And all of that is a direct byproduct of all of the vicious cycle of mental health,” he advised.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Organization of America, over six million men suffer from depression each year, but male depression often goes underdiagnosed.
Davis recently started going to therapy himself, but has some reservations about it. Still, the love and support from family members and colleagues encouraged him to seek therapy.
He was skeptical at first because there are specific experiences and harms, like structural racism, that not every therapist is qualified to deal with. He feared that a therapist would misinterpret his life experiences.
Systemic racism impacts mental health through racial trauma. Racial trauma is an emotional or physical response to experiencing or witnessing racism, discrimination or racially charged violence.
Loyd emphasized the importance of culturally competent or trained therapists who are willing to engage and effectively help people from different ethnic/racial backgrounds.
Gonzalez-Valentino works primarily with members of the LGBTQ+ community, and he stressed the same sentiment.
“You’ve got a lot of folks who really take their personal viewpoints and allow that to then infiltrate that therapy session, and it stops being about the actual client and their experiences and needs … and it starts to become some kind of an agenda pushing session or rejection of services,” Gonzalez-Valentino said.
There are alternative methods that people seek out that can help with their mental health such as body-based healing techniques like acupuncture, massages and meditation. Ecotherapy incorporates gardening, being outdoors, or working with animals into someone’s daily life as a therapeutic outlet.
Other options include peer support healing spaces where people with shared experiences come together to support each other.
“We live in a system where it’s geared toward limiting us, nurturing us to see ourselves in limited ways,” Davis said.
“We need to pay attention to who nurtures us and shift them to ensure that the relationships we build [are with] folks who are nurturing us to be limitless.”
Throughout Minority Mental Health Awareness Month — and beyond — experts hope that men learn how to address their mental health and recognize the external and internal factors that impact them and discourage them from seeking help.