SPRINGFIELD — This Father’s Day, Mental Health Recovery Board of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties (MHRB) is urging community members to talk to men in their lives about mental health.
Father’s Day, which falls on Sunday, June 21, marks the annual celebration of the father-figures in Americans’ lives – usually accompanied by grill-outs, gifts and quality time. This year, however, celebrations may take a different form, with COVID-19 concerns keeping many people at home and away from loved ones. This can exacerbate existing mental health or substance use concerns in men, who tend to be less vocal about how they’re feeling emotionally and less likely to seek medical intervention.
“Unfortunately, our culture stigmatizes men who talk about their emotions as weak, and it can be an especially difficult mindset to overcome among men of an earlier generation,” said Greta Mayer, CEO of MHRB. “Studies show that avoiding the topic and letting stress build up can cause significant physical damage to the body and puts one at risk for developing mental health conditions. Asking your dad, uncle, brother or grandfather one simple question – ‘How are you really doing?’ and listening to his response – can help prevent concerns, negative experiences and thoughts from compounding over time and leading to worse problems and health outcomes.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental illnesses are less prevalent in men than in women, but men are four times more likely to die by suicide. Male depression often goes undiagnosed, usually as a result of stigma, an unwillingness to talk about symptoms or a lack of knowledge about common symptoms.
Like women, symptoms of depression in men may include:
• Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
• Extreme fatigue or tiredness
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
• Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Feeling like a burden to others and withdrawing from family, friends or co-workers
But other behaviors in men that may be an indicator of depression can include:
• Engaging in escapist or risky behavior, such as spending more time at work or driving recklessly
• Physical symptoms, like headaches, digestive problems and pain
• Restlessness, agitation
• Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
• Irritability or inappropriate anger, outbursts, and aggression
“If you have concerns about a man in your life, having a gentle and sincere conversation about it is a good start,” said Mayer. “They may be more open to discussing these uncomfortable topics with someone they love and trust, and with someone who truly listens and provides reassurance that they are not alone.”
Mayer offered these strategies to help:
• Make a point to spend quality time with your dad – like calling him regularly
• Be direct and intentional – pick a time and a place where you can talk one-on-one
• Make it clear that you’re there to help, and offer to help in specific ways, like taking an errand off his plate or going with him to see the doctor
• Normalize seeking mental health care – help your dad understand the different therapy options that are available and have someone who has been to therapy share that experience with him
• Offer to set up an appointment and accompany him to the appointments
“Most importantly, we have to change the dialogue about receiving mental health support. Our culture teaches men that they have to solve their problems alone and needing assistance means they’ve failed as men or leaders,” said Mayer. “But the truth is, seeking help is a sign of strength, because the mental well-being of one member of the family impacts the entire family.”
Leading by example, men have an opportunity to teach boys and others that asking for help and being open to receiving it can improve health and outlook.
For more information about mental health and substance use resources in Clark, Greene and Madison counties, visit www.mhrb.org.