Men’s mental health and psychological wellness are often neglected in Singapore. Our society expects a man to be strong and to deal with his own problems himself. As a result, Singaporean men often put up a brave front in the face of adversities. This means that men are less likely to acknowledge their emotional problems and will not seek help if they have psychological difficulties as they are afraid that they may be seen as weak. However, it left untreated, mental illness can cause problems in relationships and at work.
Myths About Men’s Mental Health
Myth 1: If a man suffers from mental illness, he is weak.
Mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows conclusively that there are genetic and biological factors causing these illnesses and that they can be treated effectively. It has nothing to do will personality or character weakness and is not due to the person being weak or lazy.
Myth 2: As a man, you can will yourself out of mental illnesses.
Often family members would tell the patient suffering from mental illness to just “get out of it” or to “will it away”. However, psychiatric illnesses are genuine medical illnesses. One cannot simply will it away and will require help and treatment. It takes real courage to come forward to seek help.
Myth 3: Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of will power.
Addiction to substances or behavioural addictions have been shown to have strong genetic and biological causes. They are similar to any other psychiatric illnesses or medical illnesses and can be treated effectively. People with addiction will need help to cope with their symptom.
Myth 4: Seeing a psychiatrist will affect your career!
Many worry that their employers will come to know that they suffer from psychological illnesses and their careers will be affected. Like them, you may be reluctant to seek help. Most times, employers we have encountered are sympathetic and will try their best to help their employees with difficulties. Also, your consultation with the doctor is strictly confidential and it is really up to you whether you want to reveal it to your employer. Remember, without treatment and with a deterioration in your condition, your ability at work will be affected and your employer will notice that.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and Anxiety in Men
The Singapore Mental Health Study showed that about 6% of Singaporeans have at least one episode of clinically significant depression in their lifetime. The combined lifetime prevalence of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was 3.6%. OCD is more common than GAD (0.9% and 3.0% respectively). However,less than half of the sufferers will seek treatment.
Whilst depression and anxiety are more common in women, when men are afflicted with these illnesses, they are often more serious. When depressed or anxious, men are less likely to complain about low mood and sadness or anxiety.
They are more likely to experience depression as the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and slowness in their movement (psychomotor retardation)
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Aches and pains – stomachaches, headaches or back pain
- Irritability and agitation
- Inability to control anger
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Inability to make decisions
- Feeling stress and anxious
- Abusing alcohol or drugs like sleeping pills
- Loss of desire for sex and erectile dysfunction
- Suicidal thoughts and plans
Men will experience anxiety disorders as:
- Poor sleep and insomnia
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Digestive problems: stomach upsets, nausea, loss of appetite and bowel problems
- Frequent urination
The consequences of depression for men are more serious with men more likely to complete suicide when depressed. Depression and anxiety disorders are medical conditions and are treatable. You will not be addicted to antidepressant medications used to treat anxiety and depression. You have a choice of the type of medications, therapy and other forms of treatment available. Seek help early to cope with the symptoms of depression and anxiety and to attain full recovery.