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Navigating Mental Health as a Man

The need for mental health services is continuing to rise year after year. Conversations about mental health in our country have been increasing over the past decade, but there is a particular population that is often not acknowledged in these conversations. Men. Research has shown that many men do suffer from mental health symptoms, but they do not typically engage in help-seeking behavior (2,3).

What I have often encountered when I talk with men about going to therapy are the unknowns. What do you do in therapy? How can it help? How long does it last? These are good questions to be asking, and they all boil down to the real question that many men ask; is therapy a good investment for myself? Let’s navigate through each of these questions you may have asked yourself before regarding therapy.

What happens in therapy? For many people, the unknown of what happens in the therapy room can in of itself cause some anxiety. What is most important to know is that you are in control of what happens in the therapy room. This is your time to discuss your thoughts and feelings, work through any current stressors or anxieties that you have, and accomplish the goals you have set. Working collaboratively with a therapist through these things will ensure that you maintain autonomy over your mental health. Most of the first session is your therapist getting to know you and hear about what brought you to therapy.

How can therapy help? As men, is it easy for us to bottle up the hard emotions and feelings we are experiencing. We tend to try and power through any sort of difficult emotions and hope that with a combination of time and avoidance, the weight of our problems will go away. We white knuckle our way through our problems and push forward. However, a wise professor I once had said, “what you don’t deal with will deal with you.” Therapy can help enrich the relationships in your life, help you process the difficult emotions that don’t seem to be going away, and can incorporate healthy ways of addressing and coping with the stressors and anxieties of life. Therapy can help as much as you are willing to allow it to.

How long does therapy last? Life is extremely busy in 2023. Men have a lot of responsibilities, obligations, meetings, and duties on their plate. The length of therapy is different for everyone depending on your needs and goals. Sometimes, therapy is short-term and at other times it’s long-term. A question to consider with the busyness of life, is what do you need to prioritize in your life? Your mental health and striving to be your best self can be of great benefit for you and your relationships. Making the time and effort to prioritize and invest in yourself will help you better achieve your goals in life.

Reaching out for help as a man in our society can be difficult, but as men we were created to do and overcome difficult things. Therapy can provide you the space to process those challenging emotions, incorporate tools and skills that can assist you with managing and coping with daily responsibilities and stress, and help you more effectively reach the goals you have set for yourself. Invest in yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

By Dr. Austin Shugart, LPC

[1] Nock MK, Borges G, Bromet EJ, et al. Suicide and suicidal behavior. Epidemiol Rev 2008;30:133-154

​​[3]Cochran, S. V., & Rabinowitz, F. E. (2000). Men and depression: Clinical and empirical perspectives. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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