Breaking barriers: Men overcoming stigma and seeking mental health support

Myths and stigma often keep men from seeking help for their mental health issues.


Society’s expectations often dictate that men be tough and inflexible, making it difficult for them to address their mental health issues openly.



Society’s expectations often dictate that men be tough and inflexible, which makes it difficult for them to address their mental health issues openly.

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“What are people going to think? That was the first thing my dad said when I said I needed therapy.”

Nickil, 24.

24-year-old Nikhil isn’t the first man to be fired by his parents or the company when he tried to open up about needing therapy.

Even as conversations about mental health have become more commonplace, encouraging people to prioritize their wellbeing and seek help when needed, the stigma still exists, particularly for men.

Society’s expectations often dictate that men be tough and inflexible, making it difficult for them to address their mental health issues openly.

SUITED she spoke to men about their experiences and to experts to better understand this.

Challenging societal expectations and overcoming stigma

“Social norms have long dictated that men should be emotionally resilient and self-reliant, creating barriers for men to recognize and seek help with their mental health challenges,” says Dr. Manoj Saha, a psychiatrist. SUITED.

What Dr. Saha rings true for Srijan Mahajan, a 36-year-old musician and co-founder of Pause.

In 2013, Mahajan had episodes of severe anxiety attacks. He says, “That really scared me to be honest. I didn’t know who to turn to for help. I felt helpless and thought I should try to fix it myself.”

Like Mahajan, many men shy away from seeking needed support, some out of fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable, others out of the stigma associated with it.

Dr Shruti Sinha, Consultant – Behavioral Sciences (Psychiatry), Apollomedics Hospitals, Lucknow, tells SUITED,

“One myth is that men are less emotional or unable to express their emotions. Research and clinical trials consistently show that men have complex emotional lives and can be just as sensitive as women.”

Dr. Sinha continues, “Another myth is that seeking mental health help is a sign of weakness in men.”

But he believes that reducing this stigma would require “a multi-pronged approach”.

“From education and awareness campaigns that highlight how mental health affects everyone, to normalizing discussions about emotions and mental well-being, dismantling stereotypes while encouraging open dialogue is needed.”

Dr. Shruti Sinha

Some things that can make a difference include:

  • Healthcare professionals are trained to recognize and sensitively address men’s mental health issues.

  • Promote supportive environments where men feel comfortable seeking help, such as the provision of confidential and accessible mental health services.

  • Engaging male role models and public figures to share their mental health experiences can also inspire others to seek care without shame.

What can also help is encouraging open conversations and challenging gender stereotypes.


Change the narrative

But all of this is easier said than done. As Dr. Saha puts it, “Gay men face a double stigma: the social stigma associated with mental health issues and the additional stigma attached to their sexual orientation.”

For Nikhil, it took persuasion from a friend to realize he might need some help. He says, “The little things really hit me. Then a friend suggested that these might be real symptoms that require a diagnosis. So he offered to take me to a psychiatrist at a medical school where he was studying.”

“I was mostly thinking about all the things that are not in my control like my sexual identity, my way of coping with things, my attachment style, my indecision about basic and important things.”

Nickil, 24.

When Nikhil finally reached out for help, he was diagnosed with anxiety and dysthymia (also known as persistent depressive disorder) and took anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills, with suggestions to start therapy as well.

It was his friend’s support that helped him through. Dr. Saha agrees with this. He says SUITED,

“Building a strong support network is crucial for men seeking help with their mental health. These networks may include friends, family, support groups or mental health professionals.”

“Empathy, acceptance”: how to bring about change

Men who have successfully sought help say free-wheeling discussions create safe spaces to open up and find support, fostering a culture of empathy and acceptance.

“When I was building my start up, I started tweeting about my mental illness and was getting a lot of DMs telling me I was negative and why I must be so ‘depressed.'”

Srijan Mahajan, 36 years old.

“But now that the cat was already out of the bag, I chose to keep talking about it because if I felt like this, I don’t know how many people out there go through the exact same thing and are unable to talk,” Mahajan says.

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