There is a silent mental health crisis plaguing men in our society. Constituting 75 % of US suicide victims, research shows that one man kills himself every 20 minutes - a sobering statistic. Whether you are a man, have loved ones who are, or are just looking to better understand others - being informed on men’s health is important
Many different facets make up our health - working together to make our overall systems work. Hormones play a key role in men’s health, so you can’t talk about men’s mental health without understanding the importance of their hormonal health.
How Do Hormones Affect Men’s Health?
‘Hormone’ health is a topic that typically focuses on hormonal imbalances in women. But men have hormones too, and understanding how they affect men’s health is just as important. Testosterone is a dominant hormone in men that determines many male characteristics like muscle development, libido drive, and energy levels. It also has a direct effect on the male psyche.
While testosterone is produced by the testes, the torrent of hormone production starts in the brain. Hormone production and secretion can be confusing. Basically, men’s brains release a hormone that stimulates a gland to release two more hormones. These secondary hormones signal the testes to produce testosterone.
Ideal levels of testosterone are quite a controversial topic - mainly because there’s little data on it. But it’s clear from available research that men’s health is affected when testosterone levels are out of balance.
From a physical health perspective, when these levels are high, men are more likely to engage in risky behavior like alcohol consumption, smoking, or criminal activity. When these levels are low, men may feel a decrease in energy, strength, and stamina as well as mental aggressiveness. They can also experience lower libido, more bodily aches, and weight gain.
From a mental health perspective, high testosterone levels can lead to mood swings, insomnia, irritability, and impaired judgment. Although research into the link between testosterone levels and mental illness is in its infancy, some studies show that low testosterone levels might increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety.
How Is Mindfulness Viewed Within The Men’s Health Community?
Men’s health is as much a social issue as it is a health issue. While medical treatment for hormone imbalance is useful, it doesn’t solve the whole problem. The problem isn’t only that men have mental health issues, it’s that they don’t seek help to solve them.
Evidence shows that men are less likely than women to use mental health services when they experience mental health issues. To figure out how we can help support men in their mental wellness, we need to understand what is holding many men back from getting the help they need.
Men seem reluctant to vocalize their problems and seek help when they need it. Reports show that a lot of men would rather try to problem-solve independently than seek mental health support. The need for self-reliance is made worse by men not wanting to confide in others about their mental health struggles. This tendency is particularly dangerous for men who are suicidal or have substance abuse issues.
There is a taboo that sharing feelings and showing vulnerability makes men unmasculine. Men may experience fear when faced with admitting they have a mental health issue as they worry they will be judged harshly by their peers, employers, or family. In the workplace especially, men fear that seeking help will result in negative ramifications like being overlooked for promotions. Men would rather avoid treatment than suffer these consequences.
Inadequate Mental Health Services
Men’s mental health services in general don’t cater well to men’s health needs. This is even more obvious when it comes to minority men. Mental health systems don’t give men enough choice when it comes to treatment - there aren’t many treatment options tailored to respond to men’s unique needs.
Some men might be new to experiencing mental health issues and have not needed support in the past. Since mental health is not a widely discussed topic in men’s health, the average man might not know where or how to find help. This makes seeking mental health support a scary unknown that is avoided rather than explored.
The Possibilities For Mindfulness in Men’s Health
Now that we understand some of the main internal and external factors responsible for the mental health crisis in men’s health, what are the possible solutions? What the men’s health sector needs is a lesson in mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a therapeutic practice used to process and handle negative emotions. It encourages non-judgmental acceptance of internal experiences and embracing one’s needs and feelings. By increasing your awareness of internal pain, mindfulness helps you create habits of practicing self-care essential to mental wellness.
Gender influences how people respond to meditation and mindfulness as men and women regulate emotion differently. When experiencing negative emotions, men’s cognitive control regions are more active while women’s brains use their emotion-association regions more. This leads to women working through their emotions internally, while men do so externally.
As mindfulness focuses on your internal reaction to stress, it is no wonder that women appear to benefit more from mindfulness practices than men. Mindfulness seems a better fit for people who strongly identify with their emotions. But this doesn’t mean that mindfulness is not an incredibly useful tool for men’s health.
How Mindfulness Can Be Used To Improve Men’s Health
There is a clear need to ‘normalize’ mindfulness across genders as a vital component of healthcare. Society has trained men not to gravitate toward tools like mindfulness and so it is an uncommon topic in men’s health circles. While more research needs to be done on how mindfulness affects different genders, mindfulness itself is an extremely beneficial practice for both genders. It could be ground-breaking for men’s health!
Here are a few ways that practicing mindfulness could improve men’s health:
Research shows that mindfulness improves productivity and can teach people to prioritize important tasks throughout the day. Mindfulness practices help improve men’s health by changing distracting (sometimes debilitating) thought processes into a more focused way of thinking. By becoming more aware of our internal world, we can focus more clearly and reach our goals more effectively.
When we are closed-minded, our brain’s natural way of working through situations and problems is blocked. This affects the way we operate in our relationships and influences our mental health in general. Mindfulness and relaxation practices can help men deal with their stress and the internal pressure they feel from society. Dealing with these feelings early on prevents them from manifesting into more complex mental health problems like depression or anxiety.
Increased Emotional Intelligence
By unlocking our minds through internal thinking, mindfulness helps us understand ourselves better and in turn, we see the world and others more clearly. By using mindfulness practices, we can refocus our emotions and direct energy toward our loved ones - making our relationships more meaningful.
Final Thoughts On Men’s Health
How can you best support the men in your life? You can start by regularly reminding them that it’s okay to talk about how they’re feeling and encourage them to access mental health support. Lead with compassion and understanding, letting them know that they don’t need to face their darkness alone.
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