Perhaps as a result of the increased loneliness and isolation of the past two years, the notion of anxiety and anxiety disorders has been a hot topic. June is Men’s Health Month, a time for encouraging men to take care of their health – physical and mental.
Men are significantly less likely to reach out for help from both their families and the health care system. This could be for a number of reasons. Members of a men’s focus group in a 2022 study published in PLoS One cited a number of factors, including concern that employers acknowledging mental health may only be providing lip service.¹ Left untreated, this anxiety can worsen significantly and may even lead to future psychiatric disorders.
What is needed to help provide more sufficient men’s anxiety care?
While the stigma toward discussing emotional and mental health among men can be a hindrance, understanding how it develops can allow health care professionals to help them work through it. Members of the aforementioned focus group discussed the challenge of tending to their own mental well-being when their instinct in times of crisis was to instead focus their efforts on work and family. They felt concerned about how they would be perceived in social circles if they were more open about their vulnerabilities.
The researchers noted that masculine stigma may make some men more resistant to campaigns that directly mention mental health. They suggest tying mental health awareness to their existing active communities as well as to physical health interventions.
A study published in Discover Psychology in March 2022 examined combating male suicide, and the researchers suggested targeting anxiety specifically.² Targeted approaches, according to the investigators, can provide a better understanding of specific anxiety triggers and how they affect suicide risk in different groups of men. These triggers and risk factors include substance use, unemployment, and social isolation.
Understanding how these different factors affect different men’s anxiety, the researchers concluded, can help us determine their roles in various psychological comorbidities. In these cases, anxiety can be seen as both a cause and a result of these risk factors.
The researchers also note that many campaigns targeting men’s mental health focus on depression as a result of its link to suicide risk. Expanding access to these programs and widening their scope to include anxiety care could potentially help increase awareness of anxiety as a risk factor and normalize it in a context men in the programs may be more likely to embrace.
Resources that target informal support, such as friends and family, were also seen as an important intervention. Men may prefer interventions with their loved ones over a more formal and unfamiliar environment. Expanding not only access to anxiety care resources, but the scope of what they cover and who they are geared toward, has the potential to improve mental health outcomes in men.
1. Sharp P, Bottorff JL, Rice S, et al. “People say men don’t talk, well that’s bullshit”: A focus group study exploring challenges and opportunities for men’s mental health promotion. PLoS One. 2022;17(1):e0261997. Published 2022 Jan 21. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0261997
2. Fisher K, Seidler ZE, King K, Oliffe JL, Robertson S, Rice SM. Men’s anxiety, why it matters, and what is needed to limit its risk for male suicide. Discover Psychology. 2022;2(1):18. doi:10.1007/s44202-022-00035-5