It’s time to talk about men’s mental health. Mental health is not commonly discussed among men, including within doctors’ offices. The notion that men can feel sad, depressed, go through grief, or need to seek out mental health support has not been normalized. This needs to change.
It may be surprising to know that more men die from suicide then prostate cancer. Regular screening, more awareness, research and advancements in treatments have all helped prostate cancer come a long way. However, the incidence of suicide in men consistently remains high. Suicide is almost four times more likely in men than women.
Research studies investigating depression among men and women have reported that women tend to have better coping strategies when dealing with stress. Women are more likely to seek social and professional support for depression, grief, and mental health issues. In contrast, men are told and unfortunately taught from a young age to “suck it up” or “man up” when they express sadness, loss or hardship. This has led to the perception that men who are sad, depressed or seek mental health support are weak. Years of suppressing these emotions and feelings rather than addressing them have contributed to the drastic downfall of men’s mental health issues. Progress is slowly being made, helping encourage men to take their mental health more seriously. Awareness campaigns and breaking down stereotypes is currently in motion.
Men who do not seek support for their mental health may develop destructive coping strategies such as:
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Drug abuse
• Engaging in risky behavior
These behavioral changes can lead to social isolation, further worsening their mental health and unfortunately, can result in suicide.
Providing resources for men who are stressed, burnt out or feeling sad can help lead the way to better mental health in men. Natural herbs and compounds can help the body mentally and physically cope with stress. Some of these substances include:
- Adaptogenic herbs: There are a variety of herbs with adaptogenic properties to help support energy and mood balance. Panax ginseng is one of the most popular ones. Panax ginseng is used in Herbal Medicine as an adaptogen to help increase energy and resistance to stress. Others include holy basil, ashwagandha, licorice and reishi mushroom.
- Calming herbs: Falling asleep and getting enough sleep can have a major influence of mental health. Herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile, passion flower and many others are often enjoyed as a tea at night time to support sleep and mental relaxation.
- B vitamins such as Vitamin B6, B2 and B12 are important factors for a variety of functions within the body, including mood. B vitamins are not produced by the body so they must be obtained from diet or supplementation. When the body is under stress and a diet rich in B vitamins is lacking, a potential deficiency in these essential vitamins may occur. This can contribute to tiredness, low mood and lack of motivation. Supplementing with B vitamins can have drastic impacts on mood, energy and neurological health.
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid used by the brain to produce the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is used in the brain for mood balance. Many antidepressant medications work by keeping up levels of serotonin in the brain. Supplementing with 5-HTP can help contribute to healthy serotonin levels in the brain and benefit mood.
In addition to using supplements and products, continuing with awareness and discussing feeling amongst men is crucial. Recognizing that it is healthy and normal for men to feel sad, talk about their feelings and openly discuss depression and suicide are vital to the survival of men’s health. Remember suicide is 100% preventable. Normalizing discussions about feelings and emotions in men and checking in on that buddy who may have become withdrawn or is going through a challenging time can contribute to significant changes and possibly save a man’s life.