In recent years there has been more awareness and acceptance of mental health, yet there is still stigma about vulnerability and men seeking mental health services. This stigma is a barrier that prevents men from accessing life-saving care. According to research in the United States, one man dies by suicide every 20 minutes. The statistics show that 75% of suicide victims are men.
There is no evidence that women are less likely to struggle with mental health, but statistics show that men are less likely to seek help. According to Tanush Kaushik, a high schooler in Massachusetts and Content Creator for Neolth, “Men are afraid to seem like they actually care about what’s on the inside..[they] maintain a toxic, stoic build that shows they’re ‘manly’ and ‘brave’ and feed off the stigma that they need to protect others...Once people break down this stigma of gender norms...that’s when men will open up.”
Tanush brings up an important point, that gender norms and the perpetuation of notions like ‘men don’t cry’ are detrimental to men’s mental health. Gen Z’s dismantling of gender norms may be the reason for the increase in help seeking schools have seen in recent years. According to the AUCCCD, college counseling centers have seen a 30% increase in demand for appointments. School counselors attribute this to a decrease in stigma.
Arbaaz Karim is a high schooler from Texas. He’s both the CEO of The World is Yours - a Gen Z company working to end stigma - and the community partner for Neolth’s Student Ambassador Program. He says, “Ending stigma when talking about mental health is one of the most important concepts that is needed for progress...I think all young men need to find a way to be open about their emotions.” Arbaaz shared that stigma around mental health is changing, especially for Gen Z, “I regularly vent emotions to a few close friends when I want to share...Having the ability to be vulnerable is what displays someone’s true strength.”
Slowly but surely we are making progress. The big question remains, what can we do to accelerate this breakdown of stigma and encourage more young men to seek help?
The solution may include using digital health applications that enable youth to learn about mental health from the privacy of their phone or computer. This provides a confidential, affordable way for young people to get comfortable with mental health topics. It can also offer education about how and when to get help from a professional, including direct referrals to school counselors or therapists in their community.
Neolth is a digital app that helps students learn about mental health while combating stigma. The community section on Neolth includes interviews with clinicians and students talking about mental health, both in prerecorded videos and livestream events. Tanush Kaushik, a Neolth Content Creator, is one of the students who works with the company to make videos about his lived experiences. Tanush shares, “Neolth focuses on taking videos from students themselves, from kids who come from all walks of life...to create a society of people that can feel like they’re not alone, and that these videos are relatable.”
Tanush is part of a cohort of students working with the company in Summer 2021. Together with Arbaaz Karim and 198 students in Neolth’s Ambassador program, they’re working on the shared goal to dismantle stigma. The passion of these Gen Zers, coupled with technology as a vehicle to reach more youth, may just be the catalyst society needs to accelerate the breakdown of stigma and encourage more young men to seek help.
About the Author: Naveen Kassamali is a psychotherapist licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Her skill set includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), motivational interviewing (MI), health psychology, exposure therapy and addiction psychotherapy. She also provides ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in conjunction with a medical team.
Naveen earned her undergraduate degree in sociology at UC Davis and her masters in counseling psychology at Notre Dame de Namur University. Her masters thesis focused on the impact of microaggressions on multicultural populations. She is a Psychotherapist at My Doctor Medical Group and Outreach and Education Specialist at Neolth. Prior to these roles, Naveen worked in medical settings on integrated medical-behavioral teams, including Fremont Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center and Stanford Hospital.