(BPT) - One in five U.S. adults struggles with mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, while mental illness impacts both men and women, men are less likely to seek treatment and find solutions.
"From depression and anxiety to substance abuse and suicidal ideation, there are an excess of mental health conditions that adolescent and adult men experience," says Dr. Bruce Kehr, author, award-winning psychiatrist and founder of Potomac Psychiatry. "More people are talking about the importance of mental health, but a stigma remains, especially among men who think they should ignore their feelings or simply tough it out."
The self-stigma felt by men who struggle with their mental health creates self-doubt, shame and isolation. "For those men who experience relentless emotional pain, it's important to remember you're not alone." Kehr offers four steps men can take to improve their mental health:
Moving your body isn't just good for your physical health, it supports your mental well-being as well. Aerobic activities like running, boxing and swimming can help relieve stress and get blood pumping throughout the body. Activities like yoga, walking and stretching are typically calmer, but also have the ability to destress and support mental health.
The great thing about exercise is you can do whatever you prefer. Whether you decide to dive into one type of exercise and grow your skills, or prefer to switch it up based on your mood, any daily exercise has a positive impact on mental health.
Each person has a specific set of genes that can provide doctors with key insight into how your body and mind work. Your individual genes also have a major influence on the way you may react to certain medications. Since your genes never change, this information can help elevate your approach to health throughout your entire life. This is particularly useful for mental health and reducing trial and error with medications and supplements.
For instance, Genomind(R) Professional PGx(TM) is a cheek-swab genetic test that gives you and your mental health provider access to your unique genetic profile. It comes with a report that provides insights on how you may react to and metabolize certain medications used in mental health treatment, or even respond to supplements. Many find that the "numbers and science" in their genetics report help remove the stigma that often comes along with mental heath treatment. Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner about Professional PGx and learn more at www.genomind.com.
Digitize your therapy
Many men assume going to therapy means admitting defeat. Mental illness is not typically something you can tackle on your own. Whether it's to help get through a difficult time (such as a sick parent, relationship problems or career issues) or to tackle more extensive ongoing mental illness, a professional has the expertise to make a big difference.
Working with a therapist traditionally happens in person at their office. However, technology has opened new options for men who may prefer an alternative approach. Telehealth is a growing option at many clinics, offering the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional via a video chat or phone call. Digital therapy is another option for people who like to email, IM or text.
Spend time outdoors
Many people are naturally drawn to the outdoors, so it's good news that being in Mother Nature has many benefits. Just breathing in the fresh air can help reduce stress, increase oxygen levels, clear your mind and help you relax. Try to make time to be outdoors as regularly as possible, either alone or with a friend or partner.
Whether it's sitting and bird watching from a small green space in your yard or extensively hiking a national park — or anything in between — outdoor time supports mental health. Even a simple 20-minute walk around your neighborhood can have a positive impact. Connecting with nature can nourish your spirit, too.
"It's time to break the stigma and let men know that it's OK to not feel OK," says Kehr. "I hope that these ideas can help you take the first steps in feeling your best and support your mental health."