MA (cand.), RP(Q)

How men can break down the barriers for mental health

Accessing mental health services as a man can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start. Here are some strategies that I have found that can help you feel more comfortable with accessing psychotherapy:

1. Normalizing seeking help: Some men are conditioned to believe that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. It takes courage to break free from this mindset and embrace the idea that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness. Opening up about your struggles with mental health can be liberating and can help foster deeper connections with others who share similar experiences. This also creates an environment for other men to feel safe to open up about their own problems and give them an opportunity to be supported by trusted people.

2. Learning about common mental health issues for men: Understanding common mental health issues and available treatments can provide comfort and can give men comfort knowing that they are not alone and that there is hope. In addition, understanding the prevalent men’s mental health issues have helped me develop my own self-awareness. I have learned how to recognize the signs of my own distress and realized that these mental health problems are common and treatable. Knowing this can help men take proactive steps towards their well-being.

3. Understanding confidentiality: It is every mental health professional’s legal and ethical responsibility to maintain confidentiality in every session. However, it is important to understand the therapist’s limitations to confidentiality which can be found here. Confidentiality ensures that trust can be established in the therapeutic relationship and can give men the peace of mind knowing that they are in a space where they can be themselves. Knowing that your privacy will be respected in mental health services can help break down barriers and facilitate open and honest communication with mental health professionals.

4. Learning about different types of therapy: Psychotherapy can be provided in-person, but there is also the flexibility of online therapy and support groups. These flexible alternatives have provided me with avenues to seek support in ways that align with my preferences and lifestyle.

5. Challenging the stigma of mental health: It is important to recognize that there is stigma surrounding mental health struggles in some cultures. Overcoming this negative stigma may require you to shift your perspective and reflect on the role that culture has on your understanding of mental health. Challenging societal attitudes and perceptions can be liberating and allow you to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination.

6. Finding mental health support that meets your needs: Given the diversity of mental health services made available in Toronto and the GTA, it is possible to find a mental health professional that can help address your specific needs. Whether you struggle with living up to the societal norms of being masculine and suppressing one’s emotions, or dealing with an addiction to pornography, there is a professional that can help you reach your therapy goals. There are also male-focused support groups and therapy approaches that align with masculine norms and can help men feel understood and supported on their journey.

7. Find a peer support group: Connecting with others who have faced similar challenges has been invaluable in my own mental health journey. Peer support groups can help you establish a network of people that you can trust and lean on when struggling. There are also peer support programs that can provide a sense of community and belonging while offering ongoing support and encouragement.

8. Therapy more accessible than ever before:  Affordable options and flexible scheduling has made accessing mental health services more manageable. In addition, in the age of technology you can access mental health support from the comfort of your own home where virtual therapy sessions are more readily available. 

Accessing mental health services as a man can be difficult and uncomfortable for many. Understanding that there are ways to overcome some of these barriers can make it easier to get the appropriate mental health support that you need. All it takes is for you to take the courageous step forward and reach out.  Just remember, we all have a struggle, it’s just the courageous ones that seek help and support.