“Be a man.”
“Men don’t cry.”
“Men are strong.”
“A man does what he must- in spite of personal consequences.”
Why do we tell men that feelings are these awful things and that crying is bad? Why do we teach young boys to shut their feelings out and ignore them in the spirit of “being a man”? We live in a world that values braun and bravery over sensitivity and emotional intelligence and it is an extremely harmful way of thinking.
The world has made great strides with regards to the conversations surrounding mental health, but I believe that there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to men’s mental health. We have come a long way in terms of our thinking surrounding mental health, it is not always looked at as a weakness or something made up. But there are still some really negative thoughts and voices out there in the world.
Something I have noticed is the drastic differences in the ways women’s and men’s mental health are looked at. Women are typically seen as fragile, or delicate (I don’t agree with this but that’s for another time and place), and it’s almost like these stereotypes make it easier for people to hear about women living with mental illnesses. Men are typically seen as strong, brave, and without emotions. They grow up being told to “be a man” and that “men don’t cry.” What kind of people does this breed? This teaches young men that their feelings and emotions are things to push away and that they are bad. This teaches young men that they have nowhere to go to ask for help if they need it because they will be seen as weak, or scared. It’s stereotypes like these that seem to make it difficult for people to understand that men can and do struggle with mental illnesses.
Why do we send children into the world thinking that they will be looked down upon or seen as less than for reaching out for help? Why do we do this and then wonder why they encounter problems?
This is something that I struggle to grasp. Mental illness does not discriminate when it comes to the people it affects, men and women can and do both suffer from all mental illnesses- and we know this. We have been shown the statistics, and we have heard people speak out. So why do we continue to perpetuate stereotypes that encourage men to hide their problems in secret?
In recent years, there has been an onslaught of women of notoriety coming forward with their stories of living with mental illness. While there have been a few men of similar statuses to share their own stories, there seems to be a far smaller amount. Where is the voice for men’s mental health? Where is the voice telling men that feelings are okay and that it’s okay to cry or ask for help? Where is the voice telling them that those stereotypes, and those moulds they were told to fit into are wrong? Where is the voice telling them that their feelings are valid and that they are just as worthy of support as anyone else and that if they reach out for support it doesn’t make them less of a man?
I don’t know where the voice is that can give us an updated definition of a man, but for the world’s sake, I hope we find it soon.