Bloggers for Movember: Male Mental Health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1  However, “the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness.1 In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada.3 Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders.”

As I was doing my quick internet searching for statistics on male mental health issues, the one listed for the U.S. were specifically related to inmates in jails and prisons as well as military veterans. Other reports that seemed to address the general male population were done in the UK and Australia. After changing the wording on my search criteria a few times I finally found a U.S. resource dedicated to Mental Health for Men on the womenshealth.gov website. A few more shifting of the words and I finally found an article at askmen.com regarding Mental Health for Men.

In August 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a report by the National Center for Health Statistics, “The Health of Male Veterans and Nonveterans Aged 25–64: United States, 2007–2010.”

Key findings

Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2007–2010

  • Veterans were more likely than nonveterans to report having two or more chronic conditions.
  • Veterans reported serious psychological distress more often than nonveterans; but less than 5% of both veterans and nonveterans reported serious psychological distress.
  • Veterans had work limitations more often than nonveterans.
  • Veterans were more likely than nonveterans to have health insurance.

The askmen.com article stated, “Mental health for men is being called a silent crisis, a sleeper issue that has crept into the minds of millions. . . Men tend to view partners and friends as primary health sources. . .Researchers estimate that at least 6 million men suffer from depression each year in the United States. While this number is larger in women, men are almost four times more likely to suffer the ultimate consequence of their depression: suicide. Even though women attempt more suicides each year, men are more successful, in part because the methods employed by men are more lethal.”

As I maneuvered through this process something I suspected was confirmed: men with mental health issues are marginalized in our society, in our media, and in the resources, both private and governmental. If you are a man with mental health issues, in order for them to be recognized, treated, and accepted then you have to have gone through a series of incarcerations and received a psychiatric evaluation through the justice system or be a combat veteran. Otherwise, the likelihood of having your mental health issue recognized, identified, correctly diagnosed, and treated, at least in the United States, is very, very slim.

So, what does all this have to do with me and why am I so interested in this topic?

I have come to believe that a significant amount of the relationship and life problems that have occurred between Jerry and myself are not only related to my personal mental health and mood disorder issues being inconsistently treated or untreated for long periods, but I also believe that there are undiagnosed developmental and mental health issues in Jerry that have factored into the equation.

I can hear the eyes rolling and the thoughts of some who consider that statement to be me attempting to make excuses for Jerry’s inexcusable behavior and life choices. I know that there is a school of thought that “victims” of domestic violence go into denial and make excuses for, minimize, and go through all kinds of mental and emotional gymnastics to explain away, rationalize, justify, and take the blame for the perpetrators’ abuse. Believe what you will about my situation with Jerry, nothing I say or do here is going to convince you differently if you have already determined and judged us along these lines.

However, it is my understanding that actual domestic violence abusers have more sociopathic wiles, tendencies, and charisma than Jerry has ever exhibited. Additionally, Jerry has engaged in and participated in a variety of private and group therapeutic settings and listened to me disclose and list the difficulties and problems in our relationships and lives, identifying his behaviors and tendencies. Each time when the provider has questioned him regarding what I have revealed, he has agreed and occasionally has spoken and added his own description of his actions, thoughts, and feelings. Afterward, there has never been an act of retaliation, intimidation, or attempt to persuade me to stop services. Currently, our family is voluntarily engaged in services with three agencies that are mandated reporters of child abuse or endangerment and he is happy that we are connected to these services because he recognizes the need for them in our lives so that we can do a better job with Luna than we did for my two adult children.

I have known for over 20 years that I experience depression and have sought various forms of treatment and medication over the years, but have never had a full evaluation done to identify the possibility that the depression itself was the symptom of other things wrong in my mental/emotional health and development. I’m just now realizing that there may be some other underlying issues. The diagnosed issues I do have, have been inconsistently, incorrectly, and under-treated throughout the years due to inconsistent access to health care and insurance because when those issues came to a head, eleven to twelve years ago in 2010-2011, I wound up losing the job that provided the insurance and the income to pay for treatment.

I fully believe that undiagnosed and untreated issues for Jerry have played a major role in the dysfunction, chaos, and damage in our lives and what my adult children suffered through. I believe, that had societal stigmas, stereotypes, and barriers been addressed and eradicated sooner and if a better connected and more comprehensive mental health system been in place in combination with access to it for citizens who are least likely to afford it, it is possible that some of the outcomes would have been different and better for us all.

 

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3 comments

    1. Mary,
      Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.

      I suspect that the numbers are actually a lot higher because they only represent those who have been identified or self-reported as having thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that indicate a mental illness or mood disorder, especially in the male portion of the population.

      The stigma associated with it is so extreme and the way mental health issues get treated in popular media and entertainment industries makes it so much worse. But, that’s another post for the Movember movement.

      Be well,
      Kina

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