How Mental Health Stigma Among Men Affects Substance Abuse in PA

Everyone can suffer from a mental health issue. However, there is a large mental health stigma among men that makes it very difficult to deal with them. Men shoulder huge expectations on a daily basis and there is an overwhelming opinion that males just need to “man up”. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and men are instead driven to cope with their mental health issues in another way. Many men, when faced with mental health issues, turn to substance abuse. The way in which mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse is not exactly easy to explain, either. For example, some men might refuse to take part in any substance abuse treatment programs due to the fear of their mental health issues being exposed. In this article, we are going to explain what mental health stigma is, its types, and how it affects substance use.

What is mental health stigma?

To be completely fair, there is absolutely no stigma about mental health itself. When we say “mental health stigma”, we actually mean mental illness stigma. The best way to start explaining it is to look at the meaning of the word stigma. Stigma means a stain, mark, or blemish. When you say that something is stigmatized, it means that it is looked upon with a negative connotation.

a drawing, depicting how mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse
Being stigmatized means being looked upon in a negative way.

The reason why mental health stigma even exists is due to a lack of understanding of mental illnesses. When faced with a mental illness, many people will simply say “That person is crazy!”, instead of saying “That person might use medical assistance.”. Furthermore, most people will discriminate against others who suffer from mental illnesses. Even the media plays a large role in reinforcing the mental health stigma by creating and reinforcing stereotypes about people who suffer from a mental illness.

Therefore, when a person finds themselves not being able to handle their mental state, they usually cannot seek help from others due to stigma. Many people then turn to substance abuse instead of seeking professional help. Instead of trying to overcome their mental health issue, they often find themselves needing to undergo DBT for substance abuse instead. If there was no stigma, to begin with, many people would not have to resort to using various substances and would seek proper treatment instead.

Mental health stigma among men

While mental health stigma affects everyone, it affects men on a more profound level. The male mental health stigma is closely connected to the way that we perceive masculinity. The way that we have traditionally viewed men is as strong, capable, self-sufficient, and sometimes reserved. Once a man succumbs to a mental illness, the entire picture shatters. If you are a man, admitting that you have a mental health issue is akin to saying that you’ve failed somehow. Yet, over 6 million men suffer from depression each year, 3 million have either agoraphobia, anxiety disorder, or another phobia, and almost 90% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia by the age of 30 are men.

Needless to say, mental health issues happen to both men and women on a regular basis. However, due to the mental health stigma among men, men are far less likely to seek professional assistance. What men do is try and fix their problems in another way. Unfortunately, many men find that abusing a certain substance helps with their mental health issues in one way or another.

a worried man
Men usually have to deal with mental health issues on their own.

Some men even do so absolutely willingly. Seeking treatment for substance abuse is not stigmatized as seeking health for mental illnesses, after all. Many men will happily undergo a CBT treatment plan for substance abuse but they will not undergo CBT for mental health disorders. The stigma is just that powerful.

Types of mental health stigma among men

The problem with mental health stigma among men is that it can come from various sources. There are several types of stigma that can drive a man away from finding a solution to their mental health issues, including:

  • Internal stigma
  • Cultural stigma
  • Professional stigma
  • Social stigma

Regardless of the type, mental health stigma is always dangerous. Aside from driving men away from seeking treatment, mental illnesses often drive men to substance abuse. Luckily, men that live in Pennsylvania have the option of visiting one of the dual diagnosis treatment centers Pennsylvania has to offer. Dual diagnosis basically means that they will be diagnosed and treated for both their substance abuse and their underlying mental health issues. On the other hand, most men may not even get that far due to how all types of stigma may influence them.

Let’s take a look at these types in a bit more detail.

Internal (Self) stigma

The most common way in which mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse is when a man imposes the stigma on themselves. Men themselves are a large part of what created the stigma in the first place, after all. A person who experiences internal stigma will feel shame about their situation, and may even render judgment unto themselves.

man thinking about how mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse
Internal stigma can be extremely difficult to deal with.

Unable to deal with the way they are, many men then turn to drugs. After a while, their drug issues may go out of hand and these men might need to visit a residential drug treatment Pennsylvania center to cure their addiction. Self-stigma can be incredibly difficult to deal with, but it is also one of the easiest to remove, as persuading a single person is all it takes to deal with it.

Cultural stigma

The second stigma type is not as easily dealt with. Cultural stigma is all about how the culture itself interprets mental illness. Every culture has its own way of looking at mental illnesses, and every culture deals with mental illnesses differently. Some cultures may even go as far as to declare mental illnesses to be the “Devil’s work”, which is what most western cultures historically did. While the cultural stigma of today is not as draconic as that, it still plays a large factor in how we view mental health issues.

Furthermore, cultural stigma also influences the way we seek treatment, our support and coping styles, as well as the type of help we seek. In Pennsylvania, for example, it might be perfectly normal to enroll in a partial hospitalization program rehab Pennsylvania if you are a woman. If you are a man, however, the situation changes slightly. Even if you live in one of the most progressive countries in the world, cultural stigma is still there.

Professional stigma

Perhaps the most dangerous out of all stigma types, professional stigma occurs when a healthcare professional has a negative attitude toward the mental health of their patients. After self-stigma, professional stigma is the most common way in which mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse. Think about it for a second. If you notice that your therapist has a negative attitude toward your mental illness, you may think that there is no help for you. You may then try to seek “help” from other sources, such as highly-abusable substances. For example, many men turn to alcohol instead of seeking treatment just because they feel their therapists will judge them.

a doctor in her office
Doctors can also help spread mental health stigma.

However, it is worth noting that professional stigma is not as common as you might think. Even if you’ve had less than helpful experiences with mental health professionals, it is never a good idea to forgo treatment completely. Otherwise, you may end up in an outpatient detox rehab PA program. Professional stigma is also influenced by all other stigma types. Medical professionals are people, the same as everyone else, after all. They are not immune to neither cultural, self or social stigma.

Social stigma

The last stigma type, social stigma, is all about stereotypes within society. For example, many people believe that anyone who experiences depression is weak or crazy. Society usually tells men to simply “Man up” and keep going. The primary issue with these stereotypes is that they often work. Men, for better or worse, are able to man up in certain situations. However, not everyone can do so. Social stigma refers to mental illnesses as character flaws. Many people that attend an IOP Pennsylvania program, for example, are extremely surprised to see and hear how mental health should be treated. When a person who was shunned, discriminated against and rejected for some time finds out that they are simply ill, instead of being somehow deficient, everything changes.

How mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse?

The way in which mental health stigma among men affects substance abuse is quite simple, yet incredibly complex. On the outside, you can say that, on average, men who suffer from mental health illnesses would rather abuse a substance than seek treatment. However, that is but one aspect. Simply having to deal with mental health stigma can be incredibly stifling on its own. It may “force” men to turn their back on society and try to find a way to cope on their own.

Then there’s the fact that substance abuse is simply the “easy way out”. Instead of having to deal with their mental illnesses (which are stigmatized), men will try to “better” themselves through the use of a particular substance. For example, a man may drink a lot of alcohol to boost their mood and cover their depression. Or they might turn to illegal drugs for more pronounced effects and end up needing to enroll in a medication assisted treatment Pennsylvania program. Either way, there is no doubt that mental health stigma alone can turn people to substance abuse. It is no wonder that men have a higher rate than women of illicit drug use, after all. Women simply do not have to hear the words “Man up”, or “Men don’t cry”.

a strong and confident man
A common misconception that men “have” to be strong and confident is what turns many men to substance abuse.

Being a man has its perks, yes. Having to deal with mental health stigma, however, is definitely not one of them.

How to deal with mental health stigma

There are several ways in which you can help reduce the mental health stigma among men:

  • Use facts
  • Tell your story
  • Help shape the future generations

Using facts to reduce mental health stigma among men

The simple fact is that mental illnesses are extremely common in this day and age. However, this is still something that many people need to be explained to them. Whenever you see that someone is stigmatizing mental illnesses, you might want to point out that one in five American adults experiences a mental health issue, and that one in twenty Americans live, or have lived, with a serious mental illness. Also, do point out that suicide is the ultimate expression of mental illnesses, and that it is the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-24. Once more people are aware of the facts, the stigma around mental illness will slowly change.

Why you should always tell your story

Most people keep the mental health stigma alive simply because they don’t know better. All they’ve heard are reports from the news that a mentally ill person did something horrible. This is what fuels the stigma, for the most part. By sharing your own story, you will add a bit of personality to it and help people understand that mental illnesses are not something to be afraid of. They can happen to everyone and they can be treated. If every single person with a mental health issue shared their story with as many people as they could, we would not have to deal with mental health stigma for long.

By shaping future generations, you will be helping countless other people

The best way in which you can help reduce mental health stigma among men is by educating young boys, teens, and young men. Try to encourage them to openly speak about their emotions, and tell them that it is alright to cry if they need to. If you suspect that a young person might have a mental illness, take them to a therapist. By doing so, you will not only help them, but you will help countless others as well.

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