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Lived Experiences: Men’s Mental Health Challenges Pt. 1

December 1, 2022

painterly image of back of a man's head and shoulders who is standing in the parking lot, facing the front of a bar where a group of people standing in front of the bar are looking at him whispering, two other women are walking in the bar, one of whom is looking back at him. the front of the bar is well lit but the group of characters whispering are shadowy

Amy Mauro

David thought that moving away to college would help his process of coming out.  

But when his roommate, new circle of friends, and family members turned away from David, he fell into a deep and isolating depression. That’s when he began the search for mental health therapy. 

Millions of men like David struggle with mental health issues at different times in their lives.

How might men struggle with their mental health?

Greg Handel, PhD psychologist with HBH explained that societal expectations and traditional gender roles can influence men’s ability to express their feelings. Men, often expected to be the breadwinners and remain in control of their lives, might feel reluctant to seek mental health counseling.

How can working with a trained therapist can improve men’s mental health?

Through working with a trained therapist, men will learn how to recognize symptoms of mental health issues like depression and anxiety in themselves. 

While these symptoms aren’t unique to men, it’s important to remember that men might be less willing to open up about what they’re experiencing.

This November, we’re taking time to support men’s mental health by sharing two stories of men experiencing unique mental health issues. Both stories illustrate how working with a trained mental health professional can improve a person’s symptoms, and heal their relationship with themselves. 

The following story is not a case example but a story from a real individual resulting from a candid conversation. His name has been changed to protect his privacy.

David’s Journey with Mental Health and Finding a Therapist

David thought that going to college away from home would support his decision to come out as gay. He kept this hidden from his family members, who were religious and conservative.

For the first year, he found himself making progressive and like-minded friends.

David’s First Experience with Therapy

At the start of David’s sophomore year, his father went through open-heart surgery. He lived on ventilators, respirators, and a feeding tube. 

David was experiencing intense anxiety and depression around coming out as gay.

Reluctant to share his feelings with his new friends at school and old friends at home, David made an appointment with the school guidance counselor. 

Through their work together, David grew more confident in expressing and identifying his feelings. He felt safe and understood. 

After working together for several months, the school counselor asked David to find a therapist in the community. 

His first off-campus therapist, Nancy, encouraged David to come out to his friends at home and school.

David’s Experience with Coming Out

David’s closest friend from home, Mary, supported him and affirmed that coming out didn’t change who he was, but allowed him to be his fullest self. She sat with David for many hours, asking him questions and listening to him.

Claire, David’s closest friend on campus, dismissed his efforts to come out by telling him that she knew he was gay.

At the time, David had developed a crush on Claire’s twin brother, and his roommate, Alex. After opening up to Claire about his sexuality, rumors started flying. He became a target on campus.

Moving on from School

David’s mental health derailed, and he felt alone. He wasn’t comfortable being his true self, while his therapist, Nancy insisted that he join a religious group for support. 

The last thing David wanted to do was join a new group, he wanted to find comfort and safety in his friendships. 

David left school and moved back home with his mother, and his father died soon after.

Challenges with Finding the Right Therapist

At home, David struggled to find a therapist who specialized in men’s mental health. 

He searched for therapists in his community, but every professional he contacted only worked with women, couples, or children. It felt scary, and discouraging to feel cut off from sources of support. 

David found one successful therapist who diagnosed him with dysthymia, a milder, but long-lasting form of depression. People with dysthymia may have bouts of major depression at different times. 

While there’s no known cause of dysthymia, many factors are thought to contribute to this disorder, including: environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors. 

As time passed, David’s world became brighter. His closest friend, Mary, became a beacon of hope. His relationship with his mother strengthened after the passing of his father. He eventually found fulfilling work.

David’s Advice on Finding a Therapist

1. Open up to supportive friends 

When David’s school counselor suggested that he come out to his friends, he was nervous and feared being judged. Thankfully, the first conversation he had with his friend, Mary, left him feeling safe and supported. This gave David the freedom to share his challenges, their relationship strengthened, and he felt a sense of belonging

2. Be an advocate for your mental health 

David struggled to connect and open up about his feelings with his first off-campus therapist. He found himself getting frustrated at her lack of communication, and David didn’t know how to advocate for himself. This experience encouraged David to be an advocate for his own needs in therapy, and continue the search to find the right therapist. 

3. Find a therapist effectively 

David struggled for months to find the right therapist. Many therapists didn’t return his calls or specialize in men’s mental health. He learned that it’s essential to use effective online resources to find a therapist in your area. 

How Can You Find Mental Health Therapy?

The first step to seeking therapy can be the hardest. Reaching out and acknowledging that you need support from a trained therapist is the bravest thing you can do. 

At Handel Behavioral Health we make it easy to find a therapist who fits your unique wants and needs. Our mental health professionals treat a wide range of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, sexual orientation issues, relationship issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma, grief and loss, substance-use-disorder, among others. 

We serve the entire Massachusetts community from our offices in Amherst, Franklin, West Springfield, and Wilbraham Massachusetts. We also offer online teletherapy services to accommodate your schedule and preferences. 

If you or your loved one is struggling with their mental health, please contact one of our experienced therapists today. We will help guide you to a place of connection, understanding, integration, and growth.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting, nonprofit communications, and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Nettie believes in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

Greg Handel Headshot

Greg has more than 35 years of experience providing positive life supports for individuals, couples and families. He has worked in several different environments including inpatient and outpatient mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, congregate residential settings and in private practice. More About Author →