“I'd Rather Get Lost Then Ask For Help Getting There” – Why?

Updated October 22, 2021

While everyone may experience the issues mentioned in this article, please note that as part of our initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (2018), these articles will focus on how these topics affect men and boys. We use “men” to refer to people who identify as men.

You’ve probably seen this scenario or something similar in movies, books, or even your own life—a man is driving down the highway, only to miss his exit and wind up getting lost. His spouse keeps asking him to pull over to the gas stations passing by to ask for directions, but he refuses. It’s a common trope that men can be reluctant or stubborn when seeking help and guidance. You may even find yourself in similar situations, preferring to figure it out on your own. Why is that?

Why Are Men Reluctant To Seek Out Support?

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Whether it’s asking for directions, fixing a leaky faucet, or seeking mental health support, men can view asking for support as a last resort. What causes this?

There are a variety of reasons as to why men can be reluctant to seek out help. Issues like socioeconomic status and racial discrimination can be at play. But one of the most significant factors is stereotypes regarding masculinity.

How Masculine Stereotypes Can Prevent Men From Seeking Support

You’ve probably heard the phrase “boys don’t cry” or “man up.” Comments like these all play into the cultural and social reasons why men can be stubborn or reluctant when seeking support and guidance.

As a man, you’re told to be strong, self-reliant, and dependable. There can be a negative stigma to seeking support; it’ll make you “weak” or a “coward,” somehow. These biases can be so entrenched in a man’s identity that he might not even notice that they are, in fact, biases and not fact.

There’s data to back this social and cultural stereotype. One survey regarding mental health showed 28% of men had not sought help compared to just 19% of women. This survey also found that a quarter of men told their friends and loved ones about their mental health struggles within a month of it arising. This survey also showed that more than a third of men never told their loved ones or waited more than two years after the onset of issues before reaching out.

Other Factors At Play

Besides stereotypes, socioeconomic status, and even racial discrimination, there are still other factors that can be at play.

Men Aren’t Typically Given Enough Resources

Although this is steadily changing, men aren’t typically given enough resources or proper awareness when dealing with mental health concerns.

Many mental health campaigns targeted at men don’t do an excellent job of really trying to properly understand men. As a man, you might respond better to humor and certain types of language. The language used around mental health campaigns can be off-putting and dim your sense of self-confidence. For example, words like vulnerability, anxiety, and even mental health can cause men to check out.

The key is to get acquainted with this language and find something that works for you. Keep an open mind when seeking out support.

Judgment

As a man, you probably know all too well what judgment feels like. In adolescence, other boys can mock or shame individuals who don’t meet the group’s expectations. This shame and judgment can be damaging and follow you for lengthy periods.

Many men don’t want to be judged as weak or submissive. Therapy, support groups, and mental health concerns can all exasperate these fears of judgment.

The good news is, times are changing and judgment is becoming less and less of a concern. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, nicknamed after both his physical strength and emotional stability, opened up about depression despite the potential for judgment. He said in a video, “I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it,” he says. “I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.'”

Famous singer, songwriter, and rapper Logic opened up about his difficulties after performing one of his songs dedicated to suicide prevention. He says, “I’ve been in therapy for years. I’m handling my issues head-on, not running from them…I was so scared for so long to say that because society has lead me to believe that my anxiety is stupid and shouldn’t be talked about.”

All these men have sought to find solutions to their problems rather than running from them. They realized they couldn’t handle it alone anymore and took actionable steps to a better life. The good news is that you can, too.

Men Tend To Express Mental Health Concerns Differently

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Men often voice and deal with their mental health concerns differently when compared to women. Women typically respond better to the standard language used regarding mental health campaigns (e.g., “Your feelings are valid“). This relatable language allows them to be more open and vulnerable.

Men, on the other hand, can respond differently. Instead of becoming sad, you could become irritable and frustrated, questioning why you can’t seem to solve your problem. Or you may feel your mental health struggles more in your body, leading you to believe it’s a physical symptom rather than cognitive. Some men might also resort to substance use to deal with their challenges.

Although masculine stereotypes can at times be damaging, they’re not all negative. You can feel burdened and pressured due to these expectations, but remember, being a man can be fulfilling and incredible.

The stigma of being powerful, driven, and strong can be encouraging for some men. This stereotype might lead you to seek out new career opportunities or push yourself to greater heights.

Take the good from the stereotypes and leave the bad at the door. There can be a lot of empowering language surrounding masculinity. Find the language and vocabulary that resonates with you and thoughtfully add it to your identity. Finding the positives in challenges is a great skill to add to your tool belt. Ultimately, stereotypes serve to pigeon-hole people into a narrow definition, one that doesn’t fit all, or likely even most, individuals in that group. The same is true of men. Forget about stereotypes and utilize whatever mental health language and resources work best to help you feel healthy and more like yourself.

Building Emotional Resilience

It’s essential to think of your mental health as mental fitness. Just like a muscle, you can train your mentality and emotions to become stronger. One of the ways you can start working on your mental fitness is by building emotional resilience.

Emotional resilience is necessary for dealing with the many difficulties you can face in your day-to-day life. This skill will allow you to feel self-confident during the most challenging times.

Try communicating with your friends and family; whomever you feel most comfortable with. Start small if you have to. Just like with physical fitness, mental fitness improves one rep at a time.

Develop and improve your self-worth. Try to improve your self-worth through physical achievements like going to the gym or receiving a raise. Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes; be sure to keep going. Be kind to yourself, focus on the positives, and pat yourself on the back.

Manage your stress levels with frequent exercise, healthy food, and good sleep habits. Focusing on these basics will provide you with a more stable emotional core, allowing you to take control of your life.

Always remember, as men, we often want to forge our own path. We want to blaze ahead, climbing the highest mountains, staking our flag, and claiming victory. Sometimes, to reach that height, you need a team to support you along the way.

How Do You Ask For Help?

Men can see asking for support as a last resort or perhaps even not as an option at all. So if you’re struggling with stress, difficulties, or mental health concerns, what are the steps to asking for help?

Identify That You Need A Solution And Have Confidence

You may have realized you have a challenge that you can’t entirely solve on your own. Feeling this way is perfectly normal. You don’t need to identify the problem just yet directly; that’s what your team is for. Realizing you need a solution is one of the first steps you can take.

Once you’ve identified you need a solution to your problem or concern, it’s time to have confidence. You’ve done some of the necessary heavy lifting getting here. Have faith in yourself, the path ahead, and the mistakes you might make. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, and there are many bumps along the road. Embrace the process and keep moving forward.

Start With Someone You Trust

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Now that you’ve realized you need a solution, it’s time to start talking with people you trust. These people can be friends, family, or even coworkers. Start small if you need to, voice your difficulties and concerns. If you find that people in your social circle are not equipped to help or understand, don’t give up. A mental health professional has the training required to enable you to move forward in the healthiest possible way. 

Be Open-Minded

Some of the most incredible things can happen when we maintain an open mind. Stay open, curious, and willing to learn. Take in ideas from your family, friends, or doctor. Add these potential solutions to your tool belt and see what works.

Shop Around

When you buy a new tool, you shop around, right? You look at reviews, prices, and brands to gauge which tool is best for you. Seeking support and guidance is much the same.

When it comes to finding support, there are many different options. You’ll find various programs, people, and solutions. Find out what works for you. Don’t be opposed to trying all the various programs and seeing what’s out there. It takes time to find the proper solution and develop a well-laid-out plan.

Stay Calm And Keep Moving Forward

Remember, progress doesn’t happen overnight. Stay calm and enjoy the process. Some of these things may be out of your comfort zone; that’s a good thing. Going out of your comfort zone means pushing and developing yourself; this leads to a better you. Keep moving forward on your path and work to solve whatever branch or rock blocks your way.

If you’re still struggling with seeing how seeking support can help you, here’s an example from BetterHelp.

“As a young man who has been trying to do things the “strong man” way, I was reluctant even to consider help. Then my father began to wither in front of me, and I knew I was in trouble. There are some things that no one should attempt to do on their own. Ray, I hope you understand that you reaching out to me is something I can’t thank you enough for.”


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