Mental health myth: men are more emotionally stable than women. For centuries, mental illness was viewed as something not associated with “manly men.” Men have long been expected to be unemotional and to be able to handle anything. It’s time to dispel this myth, remove the stigma, and admit that both men and women sometimes experience symptoms of mental illness.
November is known to many as Men’s Health Awareness Month, and one organization is working to raise awareness about several aspects of men’s health, including mental health and suicide prevention. The organization known as Movember has been working to educate people about the importance of men’s mental health since 2003. The CDC reports that men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women, and that males make up 49% of the population, but nearly 80% of suicides. Many people are not aware of this discrepancy, and it’s time to take a hard look at how our society views mental health differently for men and women.
Mental Health America states that while millions of men experience symptoms of mental illness each year, and suicide rates are higher, men are still less likely than women to seek treatment for symptoms of mental illness. The reasons are many – notably the stigma in asking for help, a reluctance to talk about emotions/feelings and the desire to downplay the symptoms.
The Movember website states that part of their strategy for improving men’s mental health and reducing the suicide rate is to work toward a world where men and boys are comfortable having conversations about the big things in life. It seems we need to normalize asking for help – especially for boys and men.
The website us.movember.com offers advice to anyone who may be worried about a friend or loved one’s mental health, using the acronym, ALEC. The letter A stands for “ask.” Movember says it’s important to ask someone how they are doing; if your friend says they are fine, and you are not convinced, you should ask again. The L in ALEC stands for “listen.” We all need to listen more when we are concerned about someone’s mental health. Remember not to immediately start dispensing advice, but to listen to what the person has to say. The E stands for “encourage action;” this is done by offering things that may help your friend feel better, like getting enough sleep or exercise, or talking to their doctor. Finally, C stands for “check in.” Whether you check in by phone, email, or in person, Movember staff say that you should check in and see how your friend is doing. Check to see that they are feeling better, and/or that they are getting help.
The Movember organization is an international organization helping people all over the globe, but what about here in Henderson County? You may have heard about Thrive, a local nonprofit, that provides mental health services through a day program called The Clubhouse. Adults diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness come to the Clubhouse for peer support, and to engage side-by-side with staff members. At the Clubhouse, participants are referred to as members because they have input in the daily decisions of how the Clubhouse is run.
Members work on improving many types of skills including things like education, daily living skills, job skills, and relationship skills, and they also have access to a 24/7/365 crisis line that is run by the Clubhouse staff. This type of crisis line can be a literal lifeline for people in our community who are in psychological crisis. Thrive Clubhouse staff help members learn how to live their best life and engage in the community, even though they have a severe mental illness. Thrive as an organization is focused on moving people from just surviving to thriving. They believe everyone deserves the chance to thrive.
As we move through November, the month when many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we are thankful for, we should be thankful that there are organizations in the world like Mental Health America and Movember, who are working to ensure that people around the world are learning about the importance of men’s health. These organizations are working to reduce the stigma and prevent suicide. We should also be thankful that we have a mental health organization like Thrive that exists in our very own community.
We should be thankful that men and women can get help when they need it – not just in November – and that there are people who care so much about the mental and physical health of all community members.
Travey Gruver is the Development and Communications Director at Thrive. Contact Thrive at 828-697-1581.