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The Stigma of Mental Health in Men: Why Boys Don’t Seek Help

The adage “boys will be boys”,  and the contention, “girls mature faster than boys”, does not account for the explosion of mental health challenges adolescent and teen boys experience. Boys find it hard to make friends. If they are not involved in sports, academic clubs, band, or Advance Placement classes, they are forced to depend on personality alone to build and maintain friendships. Like girls, boys suffer stress, anxiety, fear, and depression. We know more men than women experience PTSD, more men than women commit suicide, and more men than women in highly stressful occupations experience a mental health crisis. We also know men refuse, shy away from, and/or allow the stigma around seeking mental health services keep them from getting the care they need. Many in the psychiatric community trace this to a lack of adolescent and teen boys recognizing mental health issues and the importance of mental wellbeing.  Improving Lives Counseling Services treats adolescents, teen boys, male adults and seniors in individual, family, and group sessions.


In 2021, Laura McKenna wrote: “Emphasizing stoicism, toughness, and competition can leave boys without the emotional tools they need to thrive.” This emphasis on toughness can been seen in the home, in school, on the playground and in social gatherings. How many times have you heard, “don’t baby him he’s a boy,” or “crying is for sissies.” Many fathers tell their sons to toughen up, fight back, and be a man. Even four and five-year-old boys can hear this from fathers and extended family members. These retorts, like so many others, directly affect the mental and emotional health of boys – and hearing this from early childhood through adolescence and teen years directly affects their mental health and mental wellbeing.

Boys often fear sharing how they feel emotionally or find it hard to find someone who “they think” will listen to. They see fathers and male role models as tough guys, self-sufficient, aggressive, violent fighters, and defeat their enemies. The “real man syndrome role” (regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or finances) is often assigned at birth – masculinity, strength, power, and control. From an early age, boys are urged to hide their emotions, wearing their feelings on their sleeves makes them timid, walking away from a fight makes them cowardly, and reporting bullying to an adult makes them weak. While combining their attempt to live up to society’s expectations with roles assigned at birth and puberty, which for many start in early adolescence, it’s no surprise the rates of depression in boys increased by 70 percent in 2019. Being shut-in or sheltered in place made things worse. Statics show during the COVID shutdown, domestic violence by male adolescents and teens increased and boys 15 to 19 died by suicide at a rate three times the rate of girls.

Boys have fewer tools to cope with emotions than girls. Movies, books, TV, and social media stereotype them, making it hard to identify emotional or mental health needs. Their confusing emotions surrounding puberty (starting in some boys as young as 9) are often concealed or buried. Many turn to social media, TV, the gym, or the locker room to learn true and often false information about the physical and psychological changes of puberty.


Boys as young as 5 have trouble making friends, as young as 9 hide their emotions, as young as 12 experience anxiety and stress, and as young as 15 display depression and behavioral disorders. Conduct Disorder includes an “ongoing pattern of aggression toward others, and serious violations of rules and social norms at home, in school and with peers.” In 2023, we have seen adolescents and young teen boys committing major crimes – and 5 and 12-year-old boys committing high-profile crimes. Today, more than 70% of all crimes are committed by males – more than 90% of major crimes, and latest statistics show 79% of domestic violence attacks are committed by males. “Without the means to effectively process emotions, boys are more prone to lash out in unhealthy ways or alienate themselves from others.”


Boys will be boys is changing and social media, video games, and television have gotten the message. More high profile athletes, male movie stars, and filmmakers are aware of past stereotyping and masculinity in roles – and are changing. The diverse group of professional, licensed counselors, therapists, and clinicians of Improving Lives Counseling Services treat boys and men for ODD and ADHD (more common in boys), PTSD, trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, and changes in the brains of boys going through puberty. In-person and online individual, couples, family, and group sessions are available for boys (males) of all ages. Boys and men of all ages can live the life they were meant to live.  Click this link  and we will call you or call us at 918-960-7852.