men's mental health stigma

Removing the Stigma: Men’s Mental Health and How to Get Help

Wendy Wisner

Over the past few years, celebrities and others have amplified the idea that men’s health isn’t just about eating well, visiting your doctor for check-ups, and exercising. It’s also about taking your mental health seriously. It’s about having difficult conversations and creating an atmosphere of support.

Mental health challenges happen to everyone, including men. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, 6 million men experience depression each year.

This is a time to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay. There is no guilt or shame in getting the care you need. Sharing your struggle not only benefits you, but those whom you love, your community, and your colleagues.

What To Know About Men’s Mental Health

Many people assume that women experience more mental health challenges than men, but that is not the case. According to the American Journal of Men’s Health, mental health conditions are prevalent at similar rates among men and women. However, male mental health has not been adequately researched, and clinicians tend to overlook signs of stress in males.

What Are Signs of Mental Health Conditions in Men?

Every man (and every woman) is different when it comes to how mental health struggles are experienced, but there are some trends to take note of. For example, while men and women experience depression, men are more likely to have symptoms like aggression and anger, whereas women are more likely to experience sadness or hopelessness.

Other common signs of mental health struggles in men include mood changes, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, drug or alcohol abuse, feeling emotionally “numb,” reckless behavior, and thoughts of suicide.

Men’s Mental Health: A Silent Crisis

Battling depression can be difficult, especially if you’re hesitant to share or even acknowledge how you are feeling. Unfortunately, once you push a difficult feeling aside, it tends to grow. Emotions, like problems, don’t just go away when you ignore them.

Men Are Less Likely to Seek Help for Mental Health

As reported by Mental Health America, it’s common for men to experience mental health challenges. Despite this, men were less likely than women to receive help for mental health conditions this past year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

As the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) reports, this is one reason why men are 3.5 times as likely as women to die by suicide. “Depression can be hard to talk about — so hard that a lot of men end up silently struggling for years, only to reach out when they’ve hit rock bottom,” explained writer Joshua R. Beharry in a post for NAMI.

Even if you are feeling hopeless, there is hope. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit NAMI.org, or call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264). Reach out for yourself, and reach out for your loved ones, family, and friends.

How Covid-19 Exacerbated Mental Health Challenges for Men

If you have found the coronavirus pandemic particularly difficult on your mental health, you are not alone. Heightened stress and uncertainty increased mental health challenges for most of us, and men are no exception.

According to an April 2021 study from The Hartford, 27% of workers have struggled with depression and anxiety either most days or several days a week since the pandemic began. This is up from 20% in March 2020.

The pandemic has impacted men’s mental health in specific ways as well. For example, in a Cleveland Clinic survey of adult men published in September 2020, 77% of men experienced increased stress during the pandemic, and 59% felt more isolated. Sadly, as is often the case when it comes to men and mental health, 66% of men reported rarely sharing their feelings about how the pandemic has affected their mental health.

How To Break The Silence: Getting Help

Your feelings matter and sharing them can be therapeutic for you as well as your loved ones. It can be helpful to understand that you are not alone if you are struggling right now, whether because of the pandemic or another stressor. Even if your friends, family members, or coworkers aren’t talking about it, doesn’t mean they too aren’t experiencing it.

How to Know When It’s Time to Get Help

Reaching out to a therapist or counselor is a great idea if you are experiencing increased mental health challenges. Still, many of us are unsure whether what we are experiencing emotionally is a signal that we require mental health support.

It’s important to understand that you can talk to a therapist whether you are in the middle of a crisis or not. Therapy can be used preventatively as well, to sort out your everyday thoughts and feelings. We all need to talk sometimes. And by establishing a working relationship with a therapist, you’ll know exactly who to call when you’re up against a challenge.

That said, there are some signs that indicate you may be experiencing a mental health condition and could benefit from support.

Here are some of the signs to look out for, according to NAMI:

  • Overwhelming worry or fear
  • Feeling extremely sad
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing intense mood swings
  • Increased anger and irritability
  • No longer wanting to socialize and/or not wanting to see your friends
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Fluctuations in sex drive
  • Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • Overusing drugs or alcohol
  • Headaches, stomachaches, body aches without medical causes
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Having difficulty carrying out everyday tasks

How Your Employer Can Help

mental health support at work

Many companies have become more empathetic to mental health struggles in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hartford survey, for example, found that 59% of American workers felt that their workplace culture became more accepting of mental health struggles this past year. What’s more, 70% reported that their companies viewed workers’ mental health as having the same importance as physical health and overall wellbeing.

“This has been the blessing through the pandemic — the ability to think about ourselves as human beings differently and incorporate the sense of wellbeing in the workplace,” said Adele Spallone, vice president of Clinical Operations for The Hartford, in an October 2020 webinar. “Employees are more engaged, and employers are more understanding. We really have a higher level of empathy.”

Yet many of us aren’t sure how to open the conversation when it comes to things like taking time off to manage mental health struggles. We may fear being perceived as a liability to our company, or that our supervisors may have less faith in our ability to perform our jobs.

Employee Accommodations That Have A Positive Impact on Mental Health

If you are unsure if asking for mental health accommodations is a good idea, you are not alone. According to The Hartford’s 2021 Future Of Benefits Study, many employees are concerned about bringing up the idea of taking time off to attend to their medical, familial, or personal needs.

But it’s important to understand that taking time off isn’t a luxury—it’s an essential component of employee wellbeing.

For example, The American Psychological Association (APA) cites two research studies showing the positive impacts time off can have on mental health at work. A Canadian study focusing on over 800 lawyers showed that taking time off “reduced depression and buffered against job stress.” Additionally, a study out of Japan found that even brief periods of time off help immensely. “A short, three-day leisure trip reduced perceived levels of stress and reduced levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol,” reported the APA.

Besides time off, NAMI suggests other accommodations that employees struggling with their mental health should consider asking for. These include:

  • flexible work schedules
  • distraction-free work areas,
  • the option to work from home
  • quiet and flexible break times
  • regular feedback, and the use of job coaches

These benefit not just mental health but overall job performance.

How to Be More Sensitive to Mental Health at Work

NAMI shared with The Hartford three key components of fostering a more inclusive workplace when it comes to mental health, for both employees and employers:

  • Arm yourself with facts about mental health and mental health conditions. Learn to separate myths from reality.
  • Change the language you use to talk about mental health. Use respectful and first-person language to talk about mental health conditions, such as “people with mental illness” instead of “the mentally ill.”
  • Seek out and offer support if you or someone in your company is experiencing a mental health challenge. You can try the NAMI helpline at 800-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24-hour text message support.

Employee Benefits for Mental Health Challenges

Some of the benefits that might be helpful if you are experiencing a mental health challenge include:

  • Short-term Disability insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Hospital Indemnity insurance
  • Health insurance coverage for psychotherapy, counseling, substance abuse counseling, and psychiatric care

These days, most benefits information is online. From the privacy of your home, you can explore what kind of coverage you have and how you can use it. But if you are having trouble finding it, or if you’re not sure how the information applies to your specific situation, you can contact your human resources department for guidance.

Hospital Indemnity Coverage

Sometimes tending to your mental health involves seeking in-patient care at a psychiatric facility, substance abuse center, or hospital. If your mental health care involves a hospital stay, and you are covered under a Hospital Indemnity policy offered by your employer, take a look at what it covers.  Hospital Indemnity insurance generally offers cash benefits to employees who are hospitalized for illness or injury. These benefits can be used to pay for medical expenses (including copayments and deductibles), housing, or groceries.

While standard plans typically include limitations and exclusions for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, The Hartford has designed benefits focused on these specific conditions. Our Behavioral Health and Substance Support Benefits offer additional coverage beyond traditional confinement. These benefits help provide financial and recovery assistance for mental health and substance use (drug and/or alcohol) treatment.

Short-term Disability Benefits

You may also be eligible for your Short-term Disability benefits if your condition meets the criteria under the policy and prevents you from performing the essential duties of your occupation.

As Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), explained during a recent event at The Hartford: “Mental health conditions are among the top five reasons for U.S. workers to file a Short-term Disability claim.”

If you’re avoiding seeking help because of the cost, make sure you investigate your benefits coverage. You might find it’s more affordable than you realize.

Where to Go from Here

Mental health challenges can impact every aspect of your life. You should know there are always resources available if you need support. Knowledge is power and understanding that mental health conditions among men are common and normal may help you feel empowered to seek counseling or open up to your employer, spouse, or other loved ones about your struggles. There are solutions to be found, and you are worth it.

Share this story with others and help #fightstigma


This informational material shall not be considered medical or health advice. You should always consult your health care provider before changing your diet or starting a new exercise regimen. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for any decisions related to your medical or health care. Consult with your health care provider, nutritionist, or other health professional before making any decisions that may impact your health and well-being.

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