Certainly, a lot of men can have problems talking about their feelings, and some men do have macho hang-ups about admitting to mental health problems. However, these aren’t the only, or even the most important reasons why men can be reluctant to seek help.
For one thing, men tend to be more sceptical than women about the benefits of drugs and therapy, and so are more likely to take medical advice with a pinch of salt. In the case of psychiatric drugs, such as anti-depressants, researchers have found that men are less likely to respond to placebos than women. Hence, while men are often more reluctant to take drugs for mental health issues, they are more likely to give doctors accurate feedback about how the drugs are working, which can sometimes make it easier for doctors to treat them successfully.
Many men are reluctant to undergo counselling because they’re sceptical that talking about strong negative feelings will actually help them to feel better. On this point many psychologists are in agreement.
Simply recognising and discussing problems without trying to resolve them can often do more harm than good. For therapy to be effective, it’s often necessary to change deeply entrenched negative thinking patterns, and this takes a lot of time and effort on the part of both the therapist and the patient.
In the case of serious trauma, it can be dangerous to dredge up powerful feelings if the patient isn’t willing or able to change the way they think about these issues. This is one of reasons why men in previous eras were often reluctant to talk about their traumatic wartime experiences. From a modern psychological perspective this reluctance is perfectly understandable. Until recently techniques for treating acute mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder left much to be desired and many men who did undergo counselling ended up feeling worse rather than better.
Another issue with talk therapy is that some men may lack the vocabulary skills to accurately describe their thoughts and feelings. This leaves them at a slight disadvantage to women, who on average have a higher verbal IQ than men and are more likely to work in professions that exercise their communication skills. Modern therapy techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy depend on clients writing down their thoughts and feelings and some men undergoing therapy may need assistance in such things as finding the words to describe their feelings or maintaining a record of their negative thoughts.
Hence, there are a number of reasons why men can be often reluctant to seek help for mental health issues, and often these have little to do with popular stereotypes of men being too stubborn to discuss their thoughts and feelings.