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Preventing Male Mental Disorders: Unleashing the Power of Social Support

Mental health is a growing problem in modern society, yet men often shy away from seeking help.

According to the 2020 Ministry of Health report, a significant proportion of Italian men are grappling with mental health challenges. The report reveals that 15.3% of men in Italy have experienced anxiety disorders, while 7.9% have encountered major depressive episodes within the past year. Alarmingly, a survey conducted by the National Institute for Mental Health highlights that a staggering 50% of Italian men have refrained from discussing their mental health issues with anyone.

Men tend to exhibit a greater inclination to dismiss, downplay, or conceal the symptoms associated with mental disorders, setting the stage for grave ramifications. Such consequences include the exacerbation of mental illnesses and the prevalence of suicide cases. Disturbingly, data indicates that 78.8% of suicide deaths in Italy involve men, making suicide the leading cause of mortality among males aged 15 to 44.

Based on a study conducted by the University of Bologna, it has been found that a significant majority of men, around 70%, who grapple with mood disorders refrain from seeking professional assistance and instead turn to friends or family for solace. The reasons behind men's reluctance to seek help for their mental health issues are multifaceted and varied. Firstly, societal pressures often compel men to appear strong and impervious, discouraging them from displaying vulnerability. Additionally, many men strongly value their autonomy and independence, making it challenging for them to acknowledge their need for support. Lastly, prevailing misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding mental illness contribute to feelings of shame and isolation.

Furthermore, men encounter specific challenges when it comes to mental health. Notably, they have a higher likelihood of experiencing mood disorders such as depression, which often manifests differently compared to women. While it is socially acceptable for women to exhibit emotional symptoms like sadness and tears, men tend to manifest physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, drowsiness, or insomnia instead. These physical symptoms can easily be misconstrued as physical ailments, causing men to overlook the need for mental health assistance.

Furthermore, men have a higher likelihood of experiencing stress-related issues such as burnout syndrome. This is particularly prevalent among men working in high-pressure fields such as finance, information technology, medical emergencies, and the military. Men may also face stress related to societal expectations, including the role of being the primary provider or being a supportive father. However, it remains a challenge that men's mental health is still considered a taboo subject in many cultures and societies. Men are often perceived as strong and resilient individuals who are expected to handle mental health concerns on their own, leading to their problems being disregarded or stigmatized. Terms like "toxic masculinity" or "patriarchal culture" may be used to downplay their experiences, but they fail to address the underlying issues. This misguided perception can discourage men from seeking help when they truly need it, exacerbating the situation further.

Men's mental well-being can be significantly impacted by their access to appropriate social support. Like many others, men often find themselves grappling with their challenges in isolation, frequently avoiding seeking assistance from friends, family, or mental health professionals. For instance, a man battling depression could benefit from participating in a support group, where he can share his experiences and feel a sense of connection.

Similarly, a man who has undergone trauma or abuse may find solace in counseling provided by a mental health expert, who can aid in processing his pain and navigating through the aftermath. However, the search for social support can be an arduous task for men, particularly in societies where seeking mental health help is stigmatized. Moreover, besides the prevalence of mood and behavioral disorders, there are tangible risks such as the proliferation of the controversial Redpill philosophy and the potential for political or religious extremism.

In order to challenge the taboos surrounding men's mental health, it is crucial to heighten public awareness of this issue and disseminate accurate information regarding symptoms and available treatments. By fostering greater understanding and knowledge about mental illnesses and the support resources at hand, we can dismantle the cultural obstacles that hinder men from seeking the help they need.

Creating safe and non-judgmental spaces for men to openly discuss their mental health is a valuable approach. Addressing the core issue of feeling ignored, it is crucial for individuals to understand that they are not alone and seeking help is an act of bravery rather than a sign of weakness. By promoting awareness among healthcare organizations and physicians, emphasizing the importance of establishing a welcoming and respectful environment for men seeking assistance, significant progress can be made.

Additionally, involving communities, families, and friends is another effective strategy in breaking down the taboos surrounding men's mental health. When men have a strong support system, they are more inclined to seek help when necessary. Family and friends can provide both emotional and practical support, including assisting in navigating medical care, enabling men to effectively address their mental health concerns. It is of utmost importance to actively listen to men, treating their problems with utmost seriousness and respect.

In summary, challenging the taboos surrounding men's mental health necessitates a shift in culture that fosters awareness, comprehension, and education. This entails establishing safe environments, promoting education and awareness within healthcare organizations and communities, engaging families and friends, and actively listening to men seeking support. By embracing these approaches, cultural barriers can be dismantled, paving the way for increased focus on men's mental health.

AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE: Dr. Marco Matteoli, MD, Diagnostic Imaging Specialist. Dr. Matteoli is also a freelance journalist and holds a degree in International Cooperation and Development from the University of Rome "Sapienza," which he obtained in 2020. He has been serving as a volunteer doctor for both the civilian and military branches of the Italian Red Cross since 2009.



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