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Breaking the Silence: Navigating the Stigma of Men's Mental Health

Mental health issues are increasingly recognized as a critical component of public health, yet men are often left behind in the conversation.

“Societally speaking, we are not at a place where men’s mental health is considered as seriously as women’s mental health,” says Relevé Counseling Therapist Greg Rupprecht. “Men kind of grow up with this idea that they’re supposed to handle things on their own.”

This line of thinking has led to a major disparity between the number of men seeking therapy versus their female counterparts. It doubles down when men oftentimes feel even if they do get therapy, they’ll face judgement not only from friends and family, but from the therapist too.

“There’s no judgement coming in... I’m going to treat what the issue is… I am just as human as you are. We all struggle... It is just as important as going to the gym or the doctor.”

Fear of the Unknown

A deterrent for anyone starting therapy is not knowing what to expect.

“I actually have some friends that have gone through therapy and have been against it in the past just due to that kind of stigma. ‘This is how my family has handled it and therefore I will just continue to stomach these issues, never communicate about them.'”

However, one of Greg’s friends, "Mark" (name changed for privacy), was still hesitant.

“This one particular one that took some pushing... Through him asking me questions, through how I kind of generally guide my sessions without giving him specifics, I think it made him a little more confident in seeking help.”

With that little bit of insight, "Mark" took that all important first step.

“My friend, who was kind of adamantly against going to therapy, has been going pretty regularly for a couple of months now.”

For those that do seek out therapy, many are surprised to learn it’s often not what they expect.

“I always find comedy. I find using comedy - anything to show that even though this is my job, I am just as human as you are.”

The Ripple Effect of Poor Mental Health

The consequences of not receiving help can impact one’s physical health, their social relationships, and overall quality of life. Greg says committing to therapy doesn’t mean you have to spend 50 minutes in his office every week indefinitely.

“You can go until you find that you have truly met what you wanted to for your treatment goals. Those are tailored to each individual differently. We always ask at the end of the assessments, what are your goals. Most people don’t have goals. So, we’re able to kind of through our sessions, work through what they need.”

Oftentimes, people believe they do a “good job of hiding their feelings,” and that can certainly be the case. But, time can wear away even the strongest of armor. Some of the kinks that can begin to surface include alienating friends and family or declining performance at work or school.

Without appropriate intervention, it can escalate to more severe disorders, increased risk of substance abuse, and in the most tragic cases, suicide.

When it comes to your physical health, we often take little steps to ensure we avoid high blood pressure and cholesterol. This includes eating better and exercising. The same can be said for mental health. One doesn’t have to wait for a major trauma to happen before seeking help.

“Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you feel like your routine is just off or you feel like you can’t. You’re not getting to where you need to be. Therapy can be a tool for you to reach your full potential.”

Encouraging Open Conversations About Mental Health

Creating safe spaces for men to discuss their feelings and experiences without fear of judgment or ridicule is essential.

This can be achieved through support groups, mental health workshops, and community events designed to foster open dialogue. Encouraging conversations about mental health in the workplace, sports clubs, and among peer groups can normalize these discussions, making it easier for men to seek help. Greg believes the foundation to destigmatize mental health starts at home.

“I think that parents, at least the ones that I talked to that come to see me, have been doing a good job at allowing their kids to speak their mind and to work on their, quote unquote, big feelings rather than just letting them have a tantrum.”

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