Content Warning: This letter contains mention of suicide and self harm. If you find the content disturbing, please seek help at Tuttleman Counseling Services or click here to find resources regarding mental health.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and have conversations about mental health.
Globally, an estimated 703,000 people die from suicide each year, according to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on gender, but there’s currently a significant disparity in suicide rates among men and women.
Men are diagnosed with depression at half the rate as women and are far less likely to seek mental health treatment, according to Mayo Clinic. However, men are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to women, making up nearly 80 percent of suicide deaths, according to a 2021 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This September, all students, especially men, should be conscious of their mental health, familiarize themselves with available resources and check in on their friends and family.
Harmful stereotypes can portray those with mental illness as weak or cowardly, leading to internalized shame. Stigmas surrounding mental health and masculinity contribute to men being less willing to ask for assistance.
Struggling with mental health should not be taken as a sign of weakness or a determination of character for men. Asking for help in spite of stigmas is an indication of strength and a potentially life-saving measure.
Michael Galfano has struggled with anxiety and depression since his senior year of high school and sought treatment that same year. While Galfano had a strong support system to make that possible, he acknowledged not all men have the same comfort.
“I know a lot of people who are close guy friends of mine who talk about the problems and things like that, and when the conversation comes up about therapy or other forms of help, they kind of seem a little scared or anxious to even consider it as an idea,” said Galfano, a junior media studies and production major.
Students struggling with their mental health should utilize social support or reach out to a primary care doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Mental health professionals can assess for psychological disorders and provide different forms of effective treatments, like psychotherapy and pharmacological interventions, said Michael McCloskey, a psychology professor and the director of clinical science training in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
“The idea that if you’re feeling down for extended periods of time, that that is just life and you just got to suck it up, no, that’s not true,” McCloskey said. “Go find out. Treat it like you would any other ailment.”
Men may feel inhibited by traditional gender stereotypes, making it difficult for them to express emotions or ask for help out of fear of appearing unmasculine, according to a 2022 study in the National Library of Medicine.
“I think [men are] probably a little more resistant to talk about [mental health] because there’s social norms of men not showing weakness, and the idea that if you’re having emotional psychological problems or thinking about killing yourself, that means that you’re in some way weak,” McCloskey said.
There is no shame in asking for assistance, and there are a variety of resources available to students who need support.
A resource specifically for men, the Men’s Center for Growth and Change, located at 16th and Walnut Streets, provides individual counseling and specialty men’s groups for domestic violence, anger management and healthy relationships.
Spaces, like the Men’s Center for Growth and Change, acknowledge particular issues and offer treatment methods tailored specifically toward men. They provide therapy and teach life-skills like coping mechanisms, communication skills and mindfulness through their programs. This is an effective way to reframe the mental health conversation in a way to help men feel heard and empowered.
Additionally, there are local and national lifelines that can be reached via phone call in times of crisis.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a 24/7, confidential crisis line students can reach by texting or calling 988. The line connects callers to a trained professional who can provide counseling, guidance or a listening ear during a mental health crisis.
The City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services also provides a 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis services line, which can be reached by calling 215-686-4420.
In addition to these resources, checking in on friends and family is a simple yet effective way to normalize the conversation surrounding mental health for men and to make people feel heard and cared for.
Matt O’Connor believes that men are open to talking about mental health, but don’t because there isn’t always someone willing to lend an ear.
“People talk about how much men or guys have to talk about their feelings, and they do. But a lot of the time I feel like there really just isn’t anyone around to listen, and that’s kind of the big disconnect,” said O’Connor, a senior sport and recreation management major.
Strong social support can make it easier for individuals to cope with problems alone by improving their self-esteem and sense of autonomy, according to the American Psychological Association.
“Just be someone who’s around, that’s all a lot of people really need right now,” O’Connor said.
In light of these alarming statistics, mental health is undoubtedly a vast and non-gendered issue that needs to be addressed. Male students should know help is available, and being treated for these concerns is not a call for judgment, but an opportunity to improve their well-being and quality of life.