June is Men’s Health Month and an opportunity to take a closer look at the role mental health and stigma play in addiction treatment for men. Certain factors can make men more vulnerable to addiction and mental or behavioral health issues, and often a stigma against seeking treatment can exacerbate the problem.

Compared to women, men use substances more often and in greater quantities. According to the CDC, binge drinking is twice as common among men than women. Studies show physiological and social changes that occur in adolescence can impact boys and girls differently and lead to a greater risk for disruptive substance use for men. Factors such as brain maturation, low response to alcohol, perceived substance use of peers, and traditional gender role socialization can lead to increased substance use for males.

Similarly, men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues such as depression or stressful life events because of the pressure of societal norms. Often it is perceived through the media and via normalized gender stereotypes that men should always remain strong, both emotionally and physically. Yet more than six million men in the U.S. suffer from depression and more than three million live with some kind of anxiety disorder. The pressure to adhere to social norms of strength can hold men back from seeking the help they need.

These misunderstandings around men’s mental and behavioral health are a significant barrier to treatment. Society’s stereotypes of men as providers can give off an inaccurate view of what it means to have an addiction or mental health issue. Often men think if they maintain a job and continue paying bills and supporting their families, that is what matters. They may not prioritize their mental and behavioral health or see their habits as a problem and overlook the signs of a serious issue.

Hesitating to seek mental or behavioral health treatment can lead to unhealthy coping strategies and increased substance use. When people feel they are unable to express their emotions without judgment, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. The fear of opening up that many men face thanks to gender stereotypes and societal norms can lead to increased substance use and cause further harm to mental and behavioral health, creating a vicious cycle.

If someone you know is struggling with addiction, CleanSlate is here to support. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. Visit www.cleanslatecenters.com to find a CleanSlate location near you.

Brian Coonan

Brian Coonan, MPA, LSW is the Regional Director of Operations in PA and CT for CleanSlate, a leading national medical group that provides office-based outpatient medication treatment for the chronic disease of addiction, primarily alcohol and opioid use disorders.