Men's Mental Health
“Come on, don’t be a crybaby. Be a man!!”- This phrase has become a stencil to define masculinity and most men, to fit in, have to suffer and oblige to this stereotype. There's a reason why I used suffering in this context. Because it indeed is. The society in which we’ve grown up has been this way for thousands of years. Mental health deals with the way we think, feel, and express ourselves. Today, when men are expected to fit into boxes like “alpha males” and to keep their emotional parts sealed, it becomes important to destroy these pigeonholes and focus on the mental health of men.
What makes this interesting is that mental health is very similar yet different from other health issues. Similar in the sense that there could be numerous reasons for being unhealthy and different in that we are not concerned about it. We can even go on to say that mental health is not considered a point of concern for men in society. From the time since society was known, all the histories and our ancient societies always portrayed men as physically stronger, tougher, and more stubborn. Men are often referred to as the Mighty King and Ruthless Man, which leads to a bad interpretation of what that means. People equate physical strength and toughness with being mentally strong. We just assume men to be strong pillars, ready to face and conquer any circumstance with the same physical and mental energy.
A study has stated that men are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than women. Our society has misinterpreted and misunderstood the fact that it's the brain that controls emotions and has nothing to do with being physically able. Metaphorically speaking, our brain is like a processor in our mobile phone, it doesn't matter how strong our mobile is or how much it weighs, the speed, and our phone's performance always stay the same given the processor specifications are the same. Sure, people might be sharp, empathetic, and imaginative, but these traits develop over time based on the environment they grow up in.
The causes of psychological issues in people differ. In men, issues could often stem from the obligations imposed on them by society and gender roles which may result in them often being doomed to be
The family's breadwinners,
Unwilling to seek help (not to appear weak)
Unable to express their emotions.
But how do we break this stigma? Many times it's the people around a particular person which amplify the issues. Let's say there's a guy who is working so hard yet is unable to achieve the heights which he seeks. Now people around him wouldn't be able to understand the work he puts in yet tries to undermine his efforts only based on the fact that he didn't reach the destination he was expected to. Also, our perceptions are molded at a very young age. As adults, we must break the stigma of the macho-male image by normalizing discussions around men’s feelings, struggles, and failures. Widening the confining gender roles, promoting self-care practices for men, ensuring their well-being regularly, and accepting as well as supporting their hobbies and likings without being critical, are some of the many ways to boost men’s mental health. But the mentality of our society is not something that can be settled overnight. It takes years and decades to build a non-judgemental mindset. As an immediate action, what can one do to improve mental health? It's simple. Try to Listen. Don't just hear, but listen. Listening is one of the most powerful tools which can improve a person's state of mind. As the famous saying goes "There's a reason we have one mouth and two ears". It is important to use our ears more than our mouths.
If we notice someone is suffering from depression, anxiety, and/or trauma we must comfort them and let them know that we are there if they want to talk about how they feel. Even though they might not jump into starting to share things with you, it's a great first step. Because when they are ready to share they know we are there to listen. Once they share things with us we must listen carefully as well as empathize with them to make them feel heard, acknowledged, and validated. Sharing our own struggles as stories may or may not be helpful for them (it’s always a good idea to ask them directly whether they find us sharing our stories helpful or not) and might make them believe that they can overcome this phase. It is important to make them understand that it's ok to take a hit, it's ok to go down, and it's all about leaps and bounds.
After all "why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up."
Written by: Aditya Vishwanath (MTech Material Science, SY, IIT Bombay) and Aqsa Merchant (BA Psychology, FY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)