Jose A. Mosqueda | The Poly Post

Breaking through the stigma in men’s mental health

By Gregory Karp, Nov. 7, 2023

I’m a 23-year-old male college student, in a long line of men experiencing loneliness on a daily basis.

This February, I packed my bags to move out of my parent’s house and into an apartment with three friends. Having been invited to live in a three-story apartment with them, I jumped at the chance to move in and experience having roommates and additional privacy.   

It wasn’t until I shut my bedroom door to go to sleep, that I felt homesick and thought about my parents. I lay in bed feeling completely alone and without the two people that I have been around my entire life. 

I battle feelings of loneliness on a daily basis and wonder if I’m really alone in that moment in time, or if my brain is just telling me that I am. I wake up in the mornings to commute to campus and work, sifting through dozens of music playlists to provide background noise for the lonely car rides that take an eternity. 

Many college students feel the effects of loneliness in their daily academic lives, from home and on campus. Students who regularly commute or who live in dorms at Cal Poly Pomona, face being isolated from their friends and family for long periods of time – losing a critical support system in the process.    

According to a survey by the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, 63.1% of students feel lonely during the last 12 months of college.  

As a full-time student with two jobs, keeping up with my academic workload can feel anxiety-inducing and lonesome.  

In a recent survey of more than 1,200 college students by TimelyMD, 71% of students are experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, stressors like personal finances, the growing cost of living and academics contribute to students’ mental health issues.   

Men in particular are less likely to receive mental health treatment or diagnosis, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The stigma of men confronting their mental health issues is oftentimes seen as a form of weakness or not being “manly.” 

The stigma is responsible for 1 in ten men experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression, with less than half receiving treatment. Men are also four times more likely to commit suicide than women, with gay and bisexual men under the age of 25 at a higher risk of attempting to commit suicide than the general population. 

While feeling homesick is definitely a contributing factor to feeling alone for me, being single comes second. Feelings of dread and annoyance come to mind whenever I see a happy couple on campus, sharing a smile or walking together to class. Deep down, I couldn’t be happier to see others sharing loving sympathies with each other – I just wish that I could relate to them.  

Dating has always been a complicated subject for me, as I’ve been involved in far more “situationships,” than romantic relationships. Because I’ve never been in a long-term relationship before, I don’t fully understand what it means to really love someone romantically and that feels incredibly lonely.  

I met a woman in March that I took an immediate interest in and who I envisioned myself being in a relationship with. After going on two dates and with growing romantic expectations of dating, I discovered that I was alone in my feelings toward her and I haven’t stopped thinking about her since. 

Between hour-long gaps from working on campus and asynchronous classes, I have a lot of time to complete assignments and study for quizzes that flood my Canvas dashboard. The library is the most ideal place to get assignments done, particularly because I can’t think in noisy environments.   

Whenever I’m not working or studying, I spend the remaining hours of the day at the gym or going for runs. After long days of being confined to classrooms and the workplace, taking the time to hit the gym or go running makes me feel mentally stable and a lot less lonely.  

I experience male loneliness on a daily basis, alongside countless other men who undergo symptoms of anxiety and depression in their daily lives. The struggle to overcome feeling alone and battling mental health issues, is one that men must face as a collective.   

Feature image courtesy of Jose A. Mosqueda

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