“Clearly, the problem doesn’t lie simply in the pressures of the changing culture but in the old-fashioned ideals of masculinity……”
For a long time now, most men’s mental health issues have gone unrecognised. This has been so due to a number of factors including social norms, upbringing and the role models we are presented with. Many a times we hear phrases like, man up, you are man, big boys don’t cry, real men don’t cry, real mean don’t do this or that…., these and many more have corrupted the male gender into thinking that it is not okay for them to out their mental grievances. This has in turn crippled the attempts to improve mental health in the world and amongest this gender to be precise. Mental health is not gender biased because depression is not only detrimental to women.
It is quite sad that men ignore their mental well being in the quest to prove “masculinity”. Men, from way back, have been cajoled into believing that they are responsible for everyone else’s well being but theirs. “The alpha male tendency” has left men’s mental health unsupervised and unattended to which leaves very many men battling anxiety, rejection, depression, fear, defeat, failure, etc on their own. The thing with depression, is that you think you “got this” until you “don’t got it” and sometimes this is either too late or too intense.
Our emotional state often dictates how we behave, with men and women handling emotions is quite different. When upset, women are more likely to express their feelings directly and to seek the support of friends and family, whereas men might hide their emotions or withdraw.
Men often feel that they need to be self-reliant and provide for their loved ones, so it is not appropriate to express their emotions. This behaviour can be reinforced in the stereotype of the heroic male, so often represented in popular culture. Fearless, resourceful, stoic and usually facing adversity alone, these characters tell us a lot about what is considered to be ideal male behaviour within our society. Depicting masculinity as invincible, dauntless or impregnable which is not really the case. Men are as human as anyone else, they go through pain, they have emotions that need to be understood. But they can not be understood if men do not come out of their “hard guy shelf” and out what is bothering them.
Generally there are four basic emotions ie; happiness, sadness, fear and anger. Of these four emotions, happiness is considered the most acceptable in society. Yet anger, fear and sadness are universally felt by everyone. These emotions serve valuable purposes and are normal responses to threat and loss.
Because emotions such as fear and sadness are generally not as accepted, men might try to hide these from themselves and those around them. They feel that they should be able to cope on their own. With the gradually built heroic mindset, Men may feel uncomfortable talking to someone about them, leading to frustration in relationships when they cannot express their needs, fears and grief lest they will be branded weak or vulnerable. Society has directly or indirectly created restrictions on emotional expression towards the male gender which is a threat to their mental wellness. Some of these restrictions are self inflicted but mainly fueled by a judgemental society that depicts the male gender as “invincible”. This in turn discourages men going through trauma, depression, agony, grief and many other mental health issues from outing their pain for fear of being looked at as “not man enough”.
With advancement in understanding and knowledge, platforms like this one are here to create awareness amongest people on basic mental health issues like these. To encourage men to prioritiese their mental wellness which in turn boosts performance in their daily responsibilities. To let men know that you are still as man enough as before even after letting out your vulnerability. To let them know that it is human to have feelings of sadness, fear, anger and be able to let the people around you know about them. It is very healthy and important to understand your emotions and be able to express them.
Men are often told they have to ‘get in touch with their feelings,’ but what does this mean and how do you do it?
Here are some strategies for getting to know your feelings better:
- Be aware of the sensations in your body. Emotion always manifests somewhere in the body. Anger might be experienced as a flush of heat in the face, sadness as a lump on the throat, anxiety as a knot in the stomach. Take a moment to acknowledge the feeling(s) and take a few breaths to help identify these sensations and understand what they mean.
- If you are feeling angry, ask yourself what other emotions you might be feeling? Are you really sad underneath, or afraid?
- Learn to put words to what you are feeling. Often it helps to write down or brainstorm ideas before a conversation.
- Identifying and expressing feelings is a learnt behaviour – and like driving a car, it takes practice.
- Take the risk of showing your vulnerability with people who you feel safe with. Give yourself permission to be human; it can bring you closer to others and may even bring a sense of relief.
- Ask for help when you need it. Everyone needs a hand at one point or the other.
Masculinity crisis – In simple terms is a description of how the changing work patterns and new family demands put pressure on men who feel distress and insecurity about their new gender role.
Reff: Masculinity and Mental health Australia.