A Critical Look at Adolescents Boys’ Mental Health
by Nick Hanzel-Snider
We all “have” mental health, just as we all “have” physical health. And, just as with physical health, what influences good or bad mental health can vary greatly across demographics. Knowing the different ways that different people may experience mental health challenges is a critical element of suicide prevention for teens and adults. Given that “A Critical Look at Men’s Mental Health” is among our most popular blog posts, we’re taking a look into the mental health of a subset of that population: adolescent boys.
Fast Facts on the Mental Health of Adolescent Boys
- Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death in youth aged 15-25; moreover, boys are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than girls.
- Boys are generally more impulsive than girls, which is further compounded by puberty, which boys typically enter later than girls. This impulsivity can make it more likely for boys to act on suicidal feelings.
- Although attitudes around parenting male children are shifting, boys are often still socialized to be “tough” and to internalize their emotions, making them less likely to seek help.
- Studies show that beginning in adolescence, boys start to distance themselves from the healthcare system – for physical and mental health alike – which further reduces their likelihood of seeking help. Moreover, boys themselves are often blamed for this distancing as a character flaw, rather than seen as influenced by systemic societal pressures.
- Signs of depression in adolescent boys don’t always align with what we expect: anger and irritability – rather than sadness or hopelessness – can be indicators of depression for boys.
- Similarly, anxiety in teenage boys may manifest as procrastination, obsession, or perfectionism rather than the excessive worrying or panic that we might expect.
Talk & Listen
Luckily, there is a simple way to help improve the mental health and well-being of adolescent boys: talk about feelings. Parents, caregivers, and other important adults in boys’ lives need to listen and to talk to boys about what they’re feeling, validate those feelings, and be willing to speak openly about their own emotions.