Real men and mental health

Jun 28, 2019


"Boys don’t cry." "Don’t be a wimp." "Man up."
Ever heard those phrases?

Our society has a lot of messages about men that impact their mental health in really negative ways. “At this time, there is still a prevailing masculine persona in society where emotional sharing can still be considered a sign of ‘weakness’ or simply ‘unmanly,’” says Dr. Pritham Raj, medical director of Adventist Health Portland’s Emotional Wellness Center.

Too many men are left without close emotional ties outside their primary relationship to their spouse or significant other. Left without intimate friendships and trained that "therapy is for wimps," is it any wonder men commit suicide 350 percent more often than women?

Simple tips to improve your mental health

Dr. Raj offers several ways you can improve your mental health, even if you shy away from doctors and therapists.

Walk every day: Aim to take a 1.5-mile walk in 30 minutes each day.

Eat well: We really are what we eat. Dr. Raj recommends always thinking about ways to add more plant-based foods to your diet. The fish- and plant-heavy Mediterranean diet is also excellent for overall wellness.

Get some sleep: And not just some—get plenty. Dr. Raj says studies involving elite basketball players shows performance improves with sleep. He recommends up to nine hours a night.

Nurture friendships: People are social creatures. Yes, people—not just women and children. In fact, numerous studies show that married men are happier than single men. It takes time and some reaching out, but establishing healthy friendships with people outside your home gives you more chances for fun now (think: guys weekend!) and more support when you need it.

Strive for balance: Schedule free time and play time for yourself, not just chores and work. It’s too easy to work too hard, and soon you’re burnt out.

Open up: Don’t be afraid to talk openly about your feelings. Emotions are just as real a part of life as thoughts, analysis and discoveries. “That can be very ‘manly’!” says Dr. Raj.

Steer clear of debt: Money is a major stressor and a leading cause of failed relationships. Living within your means and avoiding debt can help you stay away from what Dr. Raj calls “a surefire way to destroy mood.”

Skip the alcohol and drugs: Study after study shows drowning your sorrows in substances erodes your mood. Instead, indulge in your passions and your people.

When simple doesn’t help

Sometimes a downturn in mental health needs more than a simple pick-me-up. Longer and stronger feelings deserve more attention. “If you are struggling with feelings of sadness, low mood or hopelessness for two weeks or more, please see an expert about your symptoms,” Dr. Raj says.

He says you can start with your primary care provider or seek help from counselor, therapist or even a psychiatrist. Most Adventist Health Portland primary care clinics have therapists available to meet with you.

If you’ve tried several medications and/or psychotherapy, you may have treatment-resistant depression. The Emotional Wellness Center offers transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS uses a magnet much like an MRI to stimulate the mood centers of the brain.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, call Adventist Health Portland at (503) 261-6929 and ask for expert help. It’s the manly thing to do.