While society has started openly discussing issues such as anxiety, depression and stress, men’s mental health continues to be an overlooked area. About 40 per cent of men in India do not talk about their mental health openly, over fear of stigma, said experts on Thursday.

International Men`s Health Week is observed every year from June 10 to June 16, to raise awareness on men’s health issues.

“The lack of discussions about men’s mental health or their propensity to seek help along with the growing suicide rates may be explained by the male gender norms that are socially constructed,” said Dr Samir Kumar Praharaj, Professor and Head – Department of Psychiatry, Kasturba Medical College and Hospitals, MAHE, Manipal.

“About 40 per cent of Indian men don’t talk about their mental health openly, largely due to stigmas and misconceptions, including the mistaken belief that men should handle their emotions on their own,” added Dr Shyam Bhat, Psychiatrist, and Chairperson, of LiveLoveLaugh.

Historically, societal expectations have dictated that men embody strength, resilience and emotional stoicism. Biological and hormonal influences like testosterone also contribute to different emotional responses in men.

Dr Samir said that in most cases, men are an example of how to mask emotions since it is considered shameful for them to express feelings or seek help.

“When depressed, men are more likely to display aggression and anger rather than sadness, compared with women, who may be more in touch with their sadness and vulnerability,” remarked Dr Shyam.

“Consequently, many men suffer in silence or become isolated and resort to substance abuse, as they battle their internal struggles without the support they desperately need. This increases suicide risk in men, and consequently, death by suicide in men occurs 2.5 times more than in women,” he added.

The doctors called for awareness campaigns and educational programmes to assist in the elimination of myths and stigmatisation associated with mental disorders as well as foster conversation.

Dr Samir stressed healthy habits such as exercising, doing mindful activities and engaging in creative outlets for better mental health.

“The emphasis should be shifted to altering the perception of male masculinity and persuading men to take their mental health issues seriously and to seek help if they experience any difficulties,” the health expert said.

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