Man talks with a therapist

Ask a Therapist: Why Are Men Hesitant to Seek Help for their Mental Health?  

Men with a mental illness are less likely to have received mental health treatment than women in the past year – yet men are more likely to die by suicide than women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

Understanding the “why” behind the statistics means breaking down the stigmas that men face as they consider getting help their mental health.  

David Morgan is a licensed professional counselor. He owns and operates The On Earth Counseling Project in Livonia, and will soon be opening a second office in Grand Rapids. Morgan spoke with us about what he’s seen in his own practice helping men and women navigate depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and couple and family issues.   

Q: Are men hesitant to seek help for mental health issues?    

Morgan: “Absolutely that issue exists. In recent trends I’m seeing an improvement in that area; about 40% of my caseload is male. That’s increased in the past year or so; my caseload used to be 20% male.  

“The accessibility of mental health options and the accessibility of treatment itself have helped – there’s increased mental health awareness as conversations are being introduced into different sports and entertainment mediums. It has been helpful to have different artists and athletes discuss mental health.  We as men may be becoming more widely exposed to it.  

“I still hear references to stigmas though – like ‘it feels strange to walk into this building seeking help for myself.’” 

Q: What are the stigmas men might face? 

Morgan: “Weakness. That I as a man somehow am perceived as weak because I need help. These are conversations I’ve heard over time; individuals describing how strange it is to reach out for help. 

“Men are often positioned at work or at home as autonomous; as the main decision-makers. Now that they’re up against something that they can’t figure out on their own, it’s an emotional experience. Reaching out is strange but necessary. 

“Another one is being perceived as less capable, or less intelligent, because they don’t have knowledge in a particular area. In many regards the male experience is not one that’s exposed to emotional regulation. 

“For many men, who can run a company, build a big nest egg, or can build a family – but can’t figure out how to manage depression or anxiety – that can be stigmatizing.”  

Q: How can you encourage the men in your life to talk more openly about their mental health? 

Morgan: “Make helpful references between mental health and other common experiences. For example, it’s nothing at times for men to go out and work out together, or to hire a personal trainer. There’s an acknowledgement that maybe I just need a spotter – it’s not that big a deal. It’s actually helpful and since it’s perceived as helpful, I’m willing to use that type of help. 

“If I can make reference to someone who can be a spotter for my mental health. I can help an individual see that accepting help in this area (of mental health) in a similar light.” 

Q: What are the first steps to take if you think you need mental health support?  

Morgan: “There are hosts of inroads to the realm of mental health. Talk to people you trust and that you care about. Because of the prevalence of mental health issues, it’s highly likely that you’re in contact with someone who has struggled with mental health issues or have loved ones that struggle. These individuals may be able to point you to professionals that they trust. 

“If you start searching cold, you are likely to encounter a large pool of professionals and facilities – if you punch in ‘licensed counselor near me’ into Google, you’ll get an overwhelming number of links for cold contacts.  

“When seeking a licensed professional don’t feel obligated to filter through the internet on your own. Seek out a referral from your insurance company or your primary care provider, or ask a friend, as they can help you narrow down your search. Even if that therapist isn’t right for you, they may be able to refer you to someone who is a better fit.” 

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:  

PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382  
  • A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.  
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982  
  • Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.  

Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

Crisis Assistance:  

  • If you feel that your condition is an emergency that’s not life threatening, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 1-800-273-8255.  
  • If your situation requires immediate emergency help to prevent death or serious harm to yourself or others, please seek help at the nearest emergency room or call 911.  

Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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