3 Reasons why men don’t seek help, and options how they can!
It is a well-known fact that men (more so than women) do not seek help for themselves when things get rough for them.
Whether they are highly stressed due to work/family/financial commitments; or unable to correctly (and safely) deal with their emotions; or dealing with their mental health - a high percentage of us tend to try to ‘tough it out’, hope it all ‘blows over’, and ‘she’ll be right, mate’ our way through life.
Don’t try to kid yourself that those ‘strategies’ are working, because they aren’t. The statistics prove it. Just a quick reference to the statistics on the Lifeline website (or any other similar organisation) will soon tell you that.
However, this blog isn’t about the potential consequences of not seeking help. It is about considering 3 key causes for the reluctance to seek help, and options to consider to change that thinking.
1. Toxic Masculinity
There is enough evidence and talk about toxic masculinity, and other related matters, that show that we men have created our own ‘perfect storm’ that has built a ‘Great Wall of Man-up’. This isn’t a recent thing – it has been built over centuries.
Whatever our life-journey to get us to where we are, there are some broad (and generalised) factors that so many of us can relate to.
We were usually taught to shut down our feelings from an early age, so that as an adult, we don’t know what to do with them when we do have them (and we do have them!) As we grew up, there is a fair chance that our father/father-figure began teaching us to ‘man up’, ‘don’t be a girl/sissy’, ‘boys don’t cry’ etc etc.
2. Lack of Emotional Vocabulary/Intelligence
On the occasions when we may have tried to talk to someone about our problems – a mate, father-figure - they most likely didn’t know what to do about them either! Therefore, the conversation was most likely shut down pretty quickly with a dismissive remark - ‘She’ll be right’, ‘Give it time’, ‘Have another beer and forget about it’
This demonstrates a lack an emotional vocabulary (‘What is this emotion I am feeling?’), and the emotional intelligence as to how to deal with them.
As a result, many men feel uncomfortable about sharing their inner-most thoughts, feelings and personal life experiences. Feelings of embarrassment, being judged as weak, not in control, or not ‘manly’ enough, are just some of the negative thoughts and fears we have about even the possibility of sharing such vulnerability with someone – anyone.
In fact, the worst scenarios are where we may not even realise that we need help, or know that help is actually available to us.
Whilst most will never admit it, or maybe even recognise it, this is the biggest underlying driving force behind why men are reluctant to seek help.
Fear of someone finding out about the thing that is their cause of their addictions, behaviours, or ill-health.
Fear of the perceived consequences if ‘it’ was found out.
Fear of what others would think if he appeared weak and vulnerable.
A key thought may be : ‘Weak and vulnerable = death’…
‘death’ of job / ‘death’ of current family life / ‘death’ of love / ‘death’ of wealth / house / car / things / ‘death’ of prestige…
...and the hardest fear to deal with - ‘death’ of who I am –'Who will I be if I change?’…
What we CAN do
The first thing to understand is that you are not alone! Know that there is not one single male in this world who has never had a tough time in their life!
Even if they may look like they currently have every success under the sun, I can guarantee you that underneath that cool, collected and confident face they present to the world, there is a hidden world of theirs they haven’t yet dealt with that still haunts them in some way. It may be covered in an addiction (work, sex, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc). It may be seen in their behaviours (domestic violence, anger outbursts, covert hostility etc) It may present through their physical or mental health.
The good news is that we men are gradually becoming a little more enlightened about seeking help when times are tough!
So many companies now offer in-house or external counselling (or more) services to their employees.
There are a lot more organisations around where men can go to for help – various helplines (Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Men’s Helpline etc). Industry specific support, such as Mates in Construction. These are all great options to consider using when you need some advice and support.
However, there are still too many men who are reluctant to use these services
This is often with in-house or workplace related matters that become part of their official HR file. There is a sense that if it is ‘on the record’, it may prevent them from future advancement in the organisation, or be ‘leaked’ to those who could use the information against them.
They could choose to go to external and independent counsellors, psychologists etc, however, there can still be a stigma about using them. This stigma is generally unwarranted, and may be because of past experience, or others’ experience.
Another option is to look at alternatives to the traditional means. Oftentimes, these can be just as effective for the individual, and they can be truly ‘off-the-record’.
Obviously, I am not recommending every ‘Tom, Dick, & Harry’ alternative therapy around! Some are a bit ‘out there’, and some even potentially dangerous to an already vulnerable person. However, there are many that can certainly help relieve stress, offer new insights and can get you talking about ‘it’. You may even use a combination of modalities to help you – e.g. massage plus counselling-based therapy.
One process that more people are finding useful is Breathwork Therapy.
Breathwork Therapy uses a gentle connected and conscious breathing technique, where the process brings you to a level of deep relaxation. Once in this state it allows freer access to our subconscious thoughts and experiences, the origin of them, and understanding how they may be influencing our current situation. This new awareness can lead to finding our own conclusions and realisations for change and moving forward with more control of our life.
'Self realisations will always be more meaningful, powerful and authentic than those given to you from another.'
Whilst we cannot change our history, we can make amends for our own past, and create positive changes for our future by doing something now.
No matter which pathway you choose to go down, the most important part is to actually open the gate to it - actually asking for help.
Remember, when you do get help for yourself, you are also helping others around you – your family and friends who love you, your work colleagues and sporting mates who respect and admire you, and those who haven’t met you yet who will get to meet the best version of yourself.
David Reed is a professional Breathwork Therapy practitioner of 10 years. He conducts personal sessions, Practitioner Training programs, as well as public and corporate workshops on topics, including the benefits of using the Breath, Building Resilience and more.