Men are experiencing a silent crisis of mental health.
Image Courtesy of Mike Greer, Pexels
by Megan Donoher
“Man up!” “Boys don’t cry!”
Words so ingrained into our daily lives that most don’t give them a second thought. Mental health problems affect everyone, yet 40% of men have admitted that they won’t discuss them with the people around them. Why is that, you ask? It’s complicated, but damaging gender stereotypes are largely to blame.
Commonly, it is assumed that mental health issues mainly affect women. Thanks to this, our society doesn’t leave room for men to express their concerns about mental health. Yet suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 35, with men making up over 75% of suicides. There are over 450 million people currently suffering from mental disorders. A person should not be considered to be any less of a man by discussing a topic so prevalent in today’s society.
It can also be tough to know where to seek help when experiences with mental health seem to vary so much. Yet, mental health issues are a lot more consistent than most of us think. While women may express feelings of restlessness or hopelessness, men typically exert symptoms of aggressiveness and irritability.
Sadly, social gender norms entrenched in our society have resulted in a reluctance from men to discuss these symptoms.
Men are traditionally put under pressure to be fearless, strong and assertive.
They are encouraged to suppress emotions of any kind through fear of being portrayed as vulnerable or “not manly enough”. It seems that the stigma associated with addressing one’s mental health is too damaging to this ideal.
Put simply, the notion that depression, anxiety, and other illnesses are markers of inferiority is misleading. In fact, according to a 2017 study, men who value typically masculine traits such as being self-sufficient are more likely to suffer in silence with a mental health issue. Not only does this affect mental wellbeing, but it also prevents men from seeking support regarding physical health problems. The ideals of what it is to be a man are derived from a toxic form of masculinity which encourages men to remain silent and put their overall well-being at risk.
The stigma attached to masculinity and mental health is now referred to as the silent crisis.
The lack of research and data on health issues relating to men has sparked a drive to put this topic under the spotlight. Campaigns are beginning to actively target men, reinforcing the fact that there is no shame in drawing attention to the importance of encouraging men to raise awareness for mental health. It is through raising awareness that we can break the silence and recognise the ways in which men experience mental health. Speaking up and seeking support is normal and can effectively save lives.
Thanks to this, mental health is slowly becoming a conversation that men are willing to lead, whether that is from a personal perspective or simply in response to the subject. The unwanted stigma attached to mental health and toxic masculinity is gradually being erased. Yet, it still requires men to make that first move. There is no humiliation in being vulnerable, especially if it means that you are getting the help you deserve while also encouraging others around you to follow in full pursuit.
These facts enable us to reinforce the message that it is okay for men to speak out and seek help. Society should strive to encourage everyone, regardless of their gender, to look after their mental health to the same level we would for our physical health.