“Men don’t cry.” “Suck it up.” “Why are you being such a girl?” “Toughen up.”

These are a few statements many men have heard over the course of their lives. Many men are taught to be tough or macho, no matter the circumstances, and have been led to believe that showing emotions or expressing innermost thoughts or feelings is the wrong thing to do.

We have been led to believe that keeping our problems buried makes us strong, but in reality, it does the opposite.

Today, as we observe and celebrate Father’s Day, let’s take time to focus on the health and mental health of men.

It is OK to express your feelings in a healthy way to avoid the pitfalls of burying those feelings. The fact is, it is never OK to ignore your emotional difficulties. They can turn into bigger problems and manifest in negative and dangerous behaviors.

Suicide rates continue to grow each year, and suicide has been referred to as a “silent epidemic” because of the alarming rate of suicides committed on a daily basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

>> Suicide is the 10th leading causing of death among all Americans.

>> Men account for 79 percent of them.

>> Suicide is four times more prevalent for males than females.

>> Suicide is the second leading cause of death of men between the ages of 10-39.

Mental Health America lists some of the factors that lead to suicide in males as social isolation, substance abuse, unemployment, military-related trauma, genetic predisposition and other mood disorders. Gay and bisexual men are more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual men before age 25. This can be attributed to social stigma and nonacceptance.

It is estimated that 6 million men struggle with depression, yet men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health symptoms than women. Some of the reasons for this include a reluctance to talk and downplaying symptoms. According to Mental Health America, five major mental health problems affecting men are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

It is important that as men we continue to show our strength by being vocal about what affects us on a daily basis. Men can be expressive and emotional without being ashamed of sharing this part of themselves with others.

Supporting men to take care of their emotional responsibilities as well as family, work and financial obligations should be encouraged. It is not easy to share yourself with others, but we have to begin somewhere to lessen the stigma attached to men and their mental health.

Take the time today to check on the men in your lives to let them know it is OK to talk.

Christopher Moore is a behavioral health consultant in the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. He is a licensed professional counselor in South Carolina and North Carolina and has worked in counseling and mental health since 2002.