Despite growing awareness, mental illness is often more difficult to diagnose in men. Most men with mental health concerns will attend a doctor’s office to discuss physical symptoms that accompany the illness – racing heart, chest tightness, recurrent headaches and/or digestive issues. Even if they suspect a mental health condition, they avoid admitting it, describing themselves as tired, busy, angry or just irritable.
SOS says some key signs to look out for can include:
- Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty in sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- A need for alcohol or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviour
- Thoughts or behaviours that interfere with work, family, or social life
How do you address these issues?
Justkowiak explains that men often find it easier to talk about the experience of their feelings, than the condition itself, with many saying “it feels strange to be so angry” or “it feels almost normal to be stressed every day”. She encourages the first step to address mental health issues should simply be acknowledging the different feelings experienced and taking note of when they arise: “This way we train our mind to see the variety of what we can feel.” From there she suggests asking the following three questions to gauge the impact these emotional states cause to daily life:
What have you given up?
What have you missed out on?
What opportunities have you lost because of it?
This exercise often helps individuals realise taking action is necessary, generally with a personalised mental health care plan under the support of a qualified professional.
How you can help someone you perceive to be struggling
When approached by someone experiencing mental health issues, it can be daunting to know the ‘right’ thing to say, but acknowledging the bravery in speaking up is important. The SOS suggests first trying to ‘listen to understand’ – recognise the struggle and words being expressed, without feeling the need to offer advice, while checking on how they have coped and the resources they’ve tried so far.
Secondly, encourage the seeking of professional help – let the individual know it is absolutely alright to seek out the help they may require and that they would have your support in doing so, without any shame or stigma attached. It may be beneficial to accompany them to the session, or make the appointment for them, or encourage the use of anonymous services such as SOS if there is a reluctance to attend appointments.
Justkowiak additionally stresses the importance of validating their uniqueness. “You can say “I like how supportive you are”, “it’s so easy to talk to you because you listen well”, “I enjoy our lunch breaks as it cheers me up”. Knowing what impact their actions have, especially the little ones or the emotional ones that often go unnoticed, is the best gift for men.”
If you do notice someone is struggling, start the conversation – it could literally save a life.
If this article has triggered any response, or if you feel the need to reach out on behalf of a male in your life, please find a list of local support groups below. Remember, there is always someone who is there to listen to you.
Samaritans Of Singapore
Silver Ribbon Singapore – Free Counselling Service
Singapore Association For Mental Health
Toll-Free Helpline: 1800-283-7019