Depressed Man

From lowering your risk for depression to raising your level of psychological wellbeing, self-compassion has been shown to have a powerful impact on mental health. And according to a new study, you can add “making men more open to seeking mental health treatment” to the list of self-compassion’s positive effects.

In recent years, many researchers have confronted the problem of why men who adhere more closely to traditional masculine values are less likely to seek mental health treatment.

A 2016 systematic review of 37 studies found that men who conform to traditional views of masculinity are less likely to seek help when they experience depression. A 2015 study showed that men who identify more with traditional masculine forms have more negative attitudes toward professional psychological help, as do men with greater fear of intimacy.

These findings led psychologists from Iowa State University and Illinois State University to hypothesize that self-compassion might play a role in how likely men who adhere more closely to masculine norms are to seek help.

To learn more, the psychologists surveyed 284 undergraduate men, ranging in age from 18 to 30. They asked the men about their attitudes toward professional counseling as well as about their feelings of self-compassion.

The study turned up some interesting results.

First, it showed that men with higher levels of self-compassion felt less self-stigma about seeking professional help and were more comfortable disclosing information about themselves to counselors.

Moreover, self-compassion appeared to protect against the effects of traditional masculine values on men’s willingness to seek help. That is, while men who conformed more closely to traditional masculine norms were generally less likely to seek help, more traditionally masculine men who were also more self-compassionate tended to be more open to counseling.

These findings suggest that interventions promoting self-compassion (which the researchers explain as the ability to show oneself kindness and understanding in the face of challenges) could encourage men to seek help when they experience mental health problems.

And for both men and women, they confirm something several previous studies have indicated – that becoming more self-compassionate is one of the best things you can do for your mental health!

Image: Flickr/Mic445 under CC BY 2.0