We Need to Talk About Dad's Mental Health—And Not Just During Men's Mental Health Awareness Month

June may be Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, but one father shares why we need to talk about it year-round—and what men can do to help themselves.

man sitting on floor looking out window men's mental health awareness
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Millions of Americans live with mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in the United States has been (or will be) diagnosed with a mental health condition. And I am one in five. I was first diagnosed in 2001, at the age of 18, and—about four years ago—I began writing openly about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and OCD. And while I was nervous to publish that first post—while I am a writer, I wasn't sure how the world would view me, as a husband and father of three kiddos, with a mortgage and career—I was surprised how well my story was received. There was an outpouring of love and support.

For the most part, it was women telling me they'd struggled with something similar, or commending me for speaking so openly about my mental illness. But then I checked my private messages. There were dozens from men that almost always started the same way, "I didn't want to post this publicly..." then they'd tell me about how they struggled with similar feelings. They also told me that my post was the first time they'd ever seen a man discuss so openly something that they struggled with every day. And I think this is exactly why men's mental health awareness is so important. It isn't discussed. There is still stigma and shame. The subject remains taboo.

But what is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month—and why is it so important? From when it falls to ways to honor men's mental health year-round, one father explains the meaning behind the month.

What Is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month?

Designed for (and in celebration of) men, Men's Mental Health Awareness Month aims to draw attention to a worthy cause: the emotional and mental wellbeing of men. "Men's Health Month [is] a national observance used to raise awareness about health care for men and focus on encouraging boys, men and their families to practice and implement healthy living decisions," says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

When Is Men's Mental Health Awareness Month?

Celebrated every June, Men's Mental Health Awareness Month is one way men's health is spotlighted during the month of June. "Hosted by Men's Health Network since 1992… the month is dedicated to enriching men's health and wellness through a broad spectrum of national screening and educational campaigns," says Unicity Health Care.

Why is Men's Mental Health So Important?

For a lot of people, this might be yet another shrugable month, but when you look at the statistics, it becomes apparent why Men's Mental Health Awareness Month is so important. According to Mental Health America, "over 6 million men are affected by depression each year," with millions of others living with anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia. "Suicide is [also] the 7th leading cause of death for men... nearly 4 times as many men die from suicide than woman." And substance abuse is a major problem. "Approximately 1 in 5 men develop alcohol dependency during their lives." In short, men's mental health issues don't just exist, they persist—which is why awareness is so important.

What Can You Do to Support Men's Mental Health?

One of the best things you can do for men's mental health is to speak openly about mental illness. Not to state the obvious, but the overall goal of any awareness month is to bring awareness to an issue, and the reality is many men are suffering in the shadows. The ways men display mental illness are also not commonly discussed.

"While there isn't a different sort of 'male depression', some symptoms are more common in men than women," writes the Mental Health Foundation. "These include irritability, sudden anger, increased loss of control, risk-taking, and aggression. Men may also be more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with their depression rather than talking about it. They may use escapist behavior too, such as throwing themselves into their work."

Read up on men's mental health issues. Learn the signs (listed above) and speak up and out, whenever possible. Knowing the signs of mental illness in men, and how they are different from that of women, and discussing them openly are all ways to bring awareness to men's mental health.

What Can Men Do to Support and Help Themselves?

There are several things men can do to support and help themselves. You can and should recognize the signs listed above. Being open and honest is also key, both with yourself and someone you are close with. Engaging in healthy activities, like mindfulness and meditation, is important. And, if available, you should seek professional help. I am not the first man who has struggled to find the strength and confidence to seek out help from a therapist—and to begin taking depression and anxiety medication—but once I did, I stopped trying to deny my mental illness and learned how to live a full and balanced life. I became a better person, father, and parent. A better dad.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the overall goal is to shed light on men's mental health during the month of June, but for this to really work, this conversation needs to become a catalyst so that healthy mental health management can continue year-round. Because mental health is important. Men's—and Dad's—mental health matters, too.

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