Mental illness affects both men and women, but men by and large are less likely than women to talk about their feelings and are often more resistant to getting help. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health diagnoses. However, these conditions often appear differently in men than they do in women. One of the main differences in men with depression or anxiety is that they often appear irritable, aggressive, and angry when women generally appear sad. Likely due to the societal pressures of men needing to appear masculine or “manly” men have higher rates of substance abuse and alcohol abuse than women, and also have higher rates of suicide. Men also complete suicide more frequently than women given that they usually choose a more lethal means.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 either have or will have a serious mental health condition in their lifetime. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by age 14, and 75% by 24 years of age. Unfortunately suicide is the third leading causes of death in youths between the ages of 10 and 24. 90% of those suicides were youths with an underlying mental health condition.
Furthermore, less than half of adolescents with psychiatric disorders received any kind of treatment in the last year. This is particularly disturbing given that there are many effective treatments that exist for different disorders.
Among high school students surveyed in grades 9-12 in the United States in 2013:
- 0% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months (22.4% of females and 11.6% of males)
- 6% of students made a plan about how they would attempt suicide in the previous 12 months (16.9% of females and 10.3% of males)
- 0% of students attempted suicide one or more times in the previous 12 months (10.6% of females and 5.4% of males)
- 7% of students made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that required medical attention (3.6% of females and 1.8% of males)
- Males also commit suicide nearly four times the rate of females
- Males represent 77.9% of all suicides
- Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for males
- Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males (56.9%)
When we look at suicide data broken down by age group. Suicide is the:
- Third leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds
- Second leading cause of death among 15-34 year olds
- Fourth leading cause of death among 35-44 year olds
- Fifth leading cause of death among 45-54 year olds
- Eighth leading cause of death among 55-64 year olds
- Seventeenth among people age 65 and older
Unfortunately in 2011, middle-aged adults made up the largest proportion of suicides (56%). And between the years of 1999-2010, the suicide rate among this group increased by about 30%.
In 2013 alone a whopping 494,169 people were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. This estimate of combined medical cost and work loss cost due to these injuries is $10.4 billion.
If this data seems alarming… that’s because it is.
But There Is Hope
Thankfully there is recognition of the unique struggles men face which has sparked the creation of organizations and support services that are tailored to the needs of men. One of the organizations that focus on men’s physical and mental health is the Movember Foundation which attempts to engage men all over the world. The goal is to help men build social connections and access support in their communities. They also encourage men to open up and talk about the stressful things that are going on in their lives instead of suffering in silence. This organization has funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects both in the United States that around the world.
Even Famous Men Struggle
A handful of famous men have come forward and talked openly about their experiences with mental illness. These celebrities include actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Ryan Reynolds. Athletes Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, and Michael Phelps. Comedians Patton Oswalt and Wayne Brady. Musicians Pete Wentz, and Kid Cudi. And even royalty, Prince Harry.
Throughout history many famous men have chosen to end their lives. And with multiple high profile male suicides over the years which include: Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Alexander McQueen, Robin Williams, and most recently Anthony Bourdain, it can be discerned that mental illness does not discriminate against race, socioeconomic status, gender, or life stage.
In 2017 Justin Baldoni, an actor who plays Rafael in the hit television series Jane the Virgin spoke at TEDWomen. His talk was titled “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough.’” In this presentation he talked openly about his struggle with masculinity and vulnerability. He also created a web series called “Man Enough” where men openly talk about life issues and struggles. The last sentence of the “about” section of this website is particularly poignant and is something all men should remind themselves of.
This sentence reads in bold letters “You are Man Enough.”
- National Institute of Mental Health
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- The Movember Foundation
- Man Enough