Counseling hard for some men?
By: Mike Stancil
“Walk it off”
“Suck it up”
“Rub some dirt on it”
Boys in our culture grow up receiving a lot of messages about what it means to be a man. Some are verbal like the statements above. Other messages are delivered through media such as TV, movies, comics, etc. Characters like John McClane from Die Hard, John Rambo from Rambo, and every Clint Eastwood role presented an image of toughness, tenacity, violence as solution, and never showing weakness. These men did not solve their problems by talking about them, but usually by punching, shooting, blowing them up or drinking them away. While it makes for great movie viewing, it does not translate as well to the real world.
The result is that many men struggle to choose coping mechanisms that are actually effective while maintaining their sense of masculinity. Typically, this means trying to solve a problem on their own without letting anyone else in on it. Or ask yourself this, whenever you get lost, how often do you stop and ask for directions? What has happened when you avoided help?
One of the historical fallacies by men is that women talk and men act. And one of the misconceptions about counseling is that it is all talk. While talking about an issue can provide some relief, the work that happens between meetings with your counselor is where true growth occurs. In certain therapeutic models, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), there is a focus on what the client can do about a problem in addition to what they can say about it.
Men, Feelings, and Mental Health
Men are typically socialized to believe that expressing anger is acceptable, but expressing sorrow, fear, and uncertainty is not. Because of this, men are more likely to act out in anger when they are feeling anxious or depressed. Historically, instead of talking about their emotions, men have been more likely to cope in unhealthy ways, such as alcohol and drugs. Men have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women. Increased drinking is also associated with higher rates of physical and sexual assault.
Other indications of the lack of mental health for men include suicide rates. Men are 3.5x more likely than women to successfully complete suicide. In 2014, firearms (55.4%) were the most common method men used to commit suicide. In 2017 nearly 70% of suicides were committed by white males, with middle-aged white males having the highest rates.
Want to act?
If you have been experiencing changes in appetite, problems with sleep, increased irritability, or feelings of isolation, it’s possible that you are having difficulty coping effectively with stress in your life. The great news is that counseling provides a great opportunity to talk about your life stresses, organize your thoughts, and develop a plan of action. If you have questions on what role counseling can play in helping you manage the stress life throws at you, please call or schedule an appointment.