Common mental health challenges
Anxiety is something that exists within all of us, but not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. Sometimes, anxiety can feel like:
- Being tense or “worked up"
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Avoiding situations that may cause anxiety
- Increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and sweating
High levels of anxiety can trigger an individual’s fight, flight, and freeze response. Extremely high levels of anxiety can also cause panic attacks, which can impact a person’s ability to function effectively.
Depression isn’t the same as feeling sad. It’s a chronic condition that involves a change in brain chemistry. This change often occurs because of life events and triggers that can affect our physical and mental health. Depression warning signs include:
- Feeling deeply sad over time
- Losing interest in preferred activities
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness and shame
- Being angry and irritable
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Depression can impact an individual’s ability to complete daily tasks, interactions with family and friends, and overall health.
Trauma and PTSD:
Trauma affects everyone differently— there is no one size fits all. Trauma occurs in context of an individual and is shaped by their experience of an event. Most often when people hear the word "trauma,” they think of life-changing experiences like violent crimes, military combat, sexual assault, or other significant events, otherwise known as big “T” traumas. Traumas can also exist on a smaller scale as small “t” traumas, like the loss of a pet or a breakup. Little “t” events can still cause personal problems and mental health challenges over time, especially as they add up year after year.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is when a person has difficulty recovering from experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. This can last months or years.
Addiction and problem gambling
Substance use disorder (addiction) is a pattern of continued use of alcohol or drugs despite continued problems because of using the substance(s). Problems from substance use could potentially include being late or missing work, legal issues, fighting with friends or family, or financial issues. Some common warning signs of substance use disorder are:
- Wanting to stop but not being able to
- Increased tolerance for a substance
- Negative effects on daily life and relationships
Substance use can be especially common in men due to a long-standing history of societal norms and masculine culture embracing and even glorifying substance use.
Get connected to addiction support at helplinema.org.
Gambling can be a serious issue that gets in the way of goals and interferes with healthy relationships. Warning signs of having a gambling problem include:
- Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel excitement
- Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
- Gambling when feeling distressed, helpless, or depressed
- Risking the loss of significant relationships, jobs, education, or other opportunities
Learn more about problem gambling and how to get help at mass.gov/ProblemGambling.
Work-related stress can impact both physical and mental health. This stress can be caused by a variety of factors and can vary by occupation and industry. Work-related stressors can include physical and mental demands, deadlines, workload, workplace atmosphere, hours or duration of work, and lack of adequate pay or paid time-off. Some common signs of work-related stress are:
- Constant fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depression or anxiety
See if your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which includes confidential resources and support that help employees deal with personal challenges such as counseling, resolving medical claims, or managing stress.
Workplace and suicide:
From 2016-2019, suicides at work were a leading cause of workplace death (2016-2017 data; 2018-2019 data). Working-aged men have the highest death by suicide rates when compared to other populations. From 2016-2019, the top five industries in Massachusetts with the highest suicide rates were:
- Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishing (in Massachusetts, this is predominately fishing)
- Transportation and Warehousing
- Public Safety (First Responders)
If you work in any of these industries, seek support from your employer, your union, your peers, and potentially support groups if you’re feeling high levels of stress.
First responders are often exposed to or involved in potentially traumatic events. Due to the nature of their work, they may be witness to or hear stories of traumatic events others were part of, which can lead to their own trauma. Common symptoms related to trauma include:
- Too much or too little sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty completing daily tasks
- Being overly alert
Professionals who have a License to Carry (LTC) firearms:
Massachusetts law only bars those from obtaining or renewing a LTC if they are “involuntarily committed” to a substance use or mental health program or if they are deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. Voluntarily seeking substance use or mental health treatment, even inpatient level of care, does not impact one’s ability to obtain or renew their LTC.
Unemployed or underemployed?
Being out of work or feeling underutilized at work can impact your wellbeing and feelings of self-worth. Contact MassHire Career Centers for career support.
The MassMen Project assists workplace leaders, focusing on high-risk organizations (police, fire, EMS, fishing, construction, and others) with suicide prevention and postvention mental health services. Learn about trainings and other support services for employers.
As the saying goes—no man is an island. Your mental health and your actions have an impact on your family, friends, and loved ones. And in turn, the relationships you’re in can have a direct impact on your mood and mental health. This can create a domino effect, extending beyond yourself and into the lives of those around you. Breakups, arguments, divorce, friendships, death, and grief can both cause stress and depression, and happen because of stress and depression.
For partners, family, & friends:
If you have concerns about a man in your life, please review the resource How do I talk to a friend or family member about mental health? for further information. It is also important for you to consider your own mental health. Many of the resources available for men have tools for their loved ones.
Racism and discrimination
Men of color often carry a heavier mental health burden because of the negative effects of racism and bigotry. Race-based prejudice can cause big “T” and little “t” trauma. When men of color are discriminated against—treated differently and unfairly—the compound effect can lead to increased stress, low self-esteem, and even reduced cognitive function. Depression is the most reported condition in BIPOC communities and racial trauma increases the risk of experiencing PTSD.
Men of color alone shouldn’t carry the weight of coping with racism on a day-to-day basis. Everyone needs to examine and help break down the systems of oppression in our state and country. Evidence shows that talking about racist experiences, fostering a strong sense of racial identity, and having a strong support network can help men of color live healthfully in a culture of racism.
Housing and financial insecurity
Everyone needs safe, secure, and stable housing. Living without a place to call home, having difficulties paying rent or a mortgage, or experiencing overcrowded or poor living conditions can negatively affect mental and physical health. In addition, high housing costs and lack of affordable housing can force individuals to make difficult sacrifices to pay rent, including forgoing medications, doctor appointments, and healthier food options.
Contact the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to get connected to affordable housing, financial assistance, and other support.
Contact the Department of Transitional Assistance for help with cash benefits and food assistance. One in seven Massachusetts residents uses DTA services. You are not alone!