Student Life

Men’s Mental Health: An Intergenerational Phenomenon

Globally, male suicide rates are over three times that of females. Men abuse substances and partake in other unhealthy coping mechanisms to a far greater extent than their female counterparts. In the US, an estimated nine percent of male adults suffer from depression. The question is: why is mental health among men so poor?

Daniel Norton, an assistant psychology professor at Gordon College, believes that many men are struggling with mental health because of an abundance of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Not only students but older generations as well. 

Why is there such a divide between men’s and women’s mental health? There are resources available on campus to help those struggling mentally, yet mental health concerns persist. Even with a lack of men’s mental health awareness, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.

The Unfortunate Truth about Men’s Mental Health

Norton has observed that “more than 50 percent of people will have a diagnosable mental health issue at some point in their life.” As a result, many men are susceptible to harmful coping mechanisms. 

“On average, men cope externally more than females,” said Norton. “External coping mechanisms could consist of going for a walk or a hike, but it could also entail drinking and lashing out.”

Unhealthy coping mechanisms can lead to self-harm, harm to others, and even death, in extreme situations.

“Women attempt suicide more than men, but men are more successful in committing it. Studies have shown that men are more likely than women to take extreme measures,” says Norton.

Each person has their way of coping with their mental health. Embracing healthy coping mechanisms, such as engaging in a hobby, practicing breathing exercises, and eating healthier are all ideal ways to counteract mental health struggles. 

While no case is inherently the same, poor mental health among men is an issue within every generation. It needs to be addressed in a healthy and thoughtful way.

Nothing New

Chris Underation, an associate professor of communication arts at Gordon, has noticed that younger and older generations struggle with mental health in different ways. 

“Mental health issues are there, and I have seen them in older folks and younger students,” Underation explained, “younger men tend to close down entirely, and I usually see older people present a greater lack of interest and commitment to their everyday lives when faced with issues.”

Being in a “funk” of sorts and experiencing the occasional bad day is not necessarily indicative of mental health problems. But it is important to note that younger generations are more likely to report their mental health than older ones.

Underation believes that the older generations are much more accustomed to the “just suck it up and move on” attitude.

“A fellow student of mine seemed to be struggling when we were in college together,” he explains, “and when he went to his academic advisor to tell them what was going on, they basically told him to suck it up.”

Men should be proactive and determine whether their anxiety is caused by a diagnosable mental health issue or something else entirely. Maybe they need to get caught up with classes or get better sleep. 

“I do think that mental health is a real issue that affects a lot of people, but I also believe in the power of healthy habits and the major positive effects they can have,” says Underation. “Bad days happen to everyone, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there are serious mental health issues involved.”

Mental Health and Community

Norton and Underation have different ideas about how to positively impact men’s mental health on campus.

Norton believes that normalizing conversations about mental health is the first step that should be made to better impact our community as a whole.

“Hosting community mental health workshops on campus can help students and faculty develop best practices when coping with their mental health and can be key to healing,” he explained. “Being proactive regarding mental health before it turns into an issue would be very beneficial, instead of waiting for the issue to get worse and then seeking counseling after the fact.”

Underation believes having more small and laid-back events would better foster community on campus.

“Even if they are just small social events on the quad when the weather is nice, it’s a step in the right direction. If every event on campus consisted of going big or going home, I’m sure a lot of people would rather stay home.” 

Continually striving for more ways to connect is the first step toward healing. Building a community that cares starts with the individual, and can spread to countless others for the betterment of men’s mental health — the betterment of those suffering in silence.

Categories: Student Life

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