When Your Man Needs Help

I went to a psychotherapist because of marriage issues. I was irritated constantly, but afraid to express it because she yelled at me for doing so. It was easier to stay quiet, but I would then erupt after a time. I got help, but it wasn't my idea.

My wife told me, “You need to go see someone, so you can stop being mad at me all the time.” She insisted our young son, likewise, seek help for the same reason. Her blunt statement saved my life, as I was thinking about suicide regularly.

Compare that to how one of my friends put it when his wife told him to get help: “You're miserable to be around. Stop being so stubborn and go see someone.” After that, he was determined NOT to see someone.

We should never shame a man for needing help or being afraid to open up and seek help when he's struggling. But neither should we shame him if he simply refuses to.

Berating a man for refusing to seek help for a mental / emotional health issue makes everything worse. It's a societal thing. We're all conditioned to see men in macho terms. As a man I might feel ashamed to admit to a mental / emotional ailment, to admit I need help, to seek help. But a woman might assume that, since I'm a man, I'm totally capable of weathering a stream of criticism and harassment over my decision to stay silent.

While it's hard enough trying to fight daily with depression or anxiety or what-have-you, it gets exponentially worse when a woman (or partner) in his life calls him unreasonable, stubborn, bull-headed, or even shameful for not swallowing his pride and getting help.

It might not be pride that's guiding his decision but heaping ridicule on him will probably have the opposite reaction than intended: it'll just reinforce the stigma within, and reinforce all those voices that say he's 'weak' or 'defective' or to blame for having this problem.

It's understandable for a woman to complain her man is stubborn and refuses to ask for help, because some men just are. She might need to push and goad and nag to get him to act on things normally, but when he's struggling to cope with life, piling on just makes it harder. Even if he responds by seeking treatment, now he has yet another hurdle to try and jump on his path toward wellness.

What are some considerations if your man is having trouble taking that step toward getting help It's different strokes for different folks. What works to motivate one man might do nothing for another. A friend or partner who knows him best might have to evaluate several methods to find the right one.

That first step can be overwhelmingly isolating. It can leave a person feeling alone and very vulnerable, male or female. Maybe you could offer to go with him, not because you think he’s incapable, but out of love.

Patience and loving compassion are great tools. A depressed woman once tearfully complained to me: “Nobody understands.”  Men often feel exactly the same frustration, like nobody understands, like nobody even wants to try to understand. It's not necessarily true, but it's a hard thought to dismiss.

Keep this Golden Rule in mind. How would you want to be treated in your struggles through anxiety, depression or bipolar's peaks and valleys, disorientation, phobic, panic or any other mental or emotional challenge? Men often aren't so different from women inside when the turmoil starts.

It might be necessary to detach. By this I mean it might be necessary to separate how you feel from the situation. This doesn't mean ignoring your feelings or subjugating yours to his. Too many women in the world have to contend with that demand or expectation their whole lives, but if the goal is to help your man get well, it may be necessary to manage expectations, particularly if he wouldn't be giving you the same courtesy. Your effort during this particularly vulnerable time might be the moment he finally sees how you are treating him and it really clicks. It's up to you to decide.

Don't forget 'you'. First and foremost is self care. If your man needs help getting well, it might be worth considering getting help and support for yourself as well. A support group could help you deal with the challenges you'll face as your man starts on his path.

Everyone's situation is different, and we all have to walk our own path for good or ill, but with all other things equal, your man is just a person who might be needing help finding and embarking on his path of healing. Along with any other personal factors, it boils down to men sometimes needing help overcoming the stigma within and taking that scary and overwhelming first step to acknowledging the need for help, the need to take steps to get healthy.

You can save the nagging for the thousandth time you have to point out where his dirty laundry goes.

Ladies, do you recognise any of what David talks about in your own partner? Gents, do you think your partner could benefit from reading it. Feel free to share it using the buttons just over there.

You can keep up-to-date with David on Twitter, where he's @DavidWJones2016