Mental Health; its become widely absorbed knowledge in our society today as just being ‘one of those things.’ This is not too dissimilar to our attitude towards physical health, in that we accept that some people struggle with it, and some people don’t.
However, behind this seemingly none-judgmental front, what’s really happening is there has become a gender divide, whereby women who suffer with ill mental health are not given a second thought, but men, on the other hand, men are made to feel shameful and told to ‘man up’ for admitting they’re struggling.
I don’t want to discredit how great it is that mental health is finally becoming less stigmatized than it was in previous generations, but it is not right for there to still be prejudice surrounding it, prejudice of any kind, especially over something as trivial as ones gender.
So, the big question is; why is it seen as okay to be a mentally ill woman, but being a mentally ill man still has so much stigma attached to it?
Well, it can all be linked back to gender roles and, specifically, how assigning gender roles via primary socialization often results in the labelling of people based on stereotypes they believe to be true (e.g. boys don’t cry, boys are strong, etc.) This messaging which is reitarated throughout ones childhood and continued via secondary socialization occurring in, most notably, schools, sticks in the minds of whole generations of people, hence why prejudices are so hard to remove, as can be seen in the case of attitudes towards male mental health.
Constantly hearing the narrative that, ‘as a boy you shouldn’t show your emotions because that makes you weak’, is incredibly harmful for society, and keeps us trapped in the position we are in now, with boys and men hiding their feelings out of a fear of being judged undesirably.
The only way we can achieve change, is by doing just that, changing.
We need to educate schools, and parents, about the dangers of what are often considered by the ‘giver’ to be ‘throwaway comments’, so that we can reduce and, eventually, remove, the stigma of mental health for everyone.
We need to make it common knowledge that showing your emotions is only ever a good thing, not a sign of weakness. And, we need to make it common knowledge that to admit you’re struggling is actually the strongest thing you can do.
By spreading the message that men will not be ridiculed for seeking help, I truly do believe that more people will come forward with their struggles before its too late. This is such an important point to consider, since early intervention like this really does save lives.
Show men that they have people to turn to, and I am confident that we will see fewer fatalities resulting from men being made to feel like they are an ‘intruder’ in the mental health system.
Men are just as deserving of support as women.
No one has to suffer in silence.
So, if you’re a boy and you’re struggling with your mental health, please open up to someone. I know it will be hard, what with society having made you feel like you shouldn’t be emotional about these things, but you have the capability to help future generations of boys. You have the capability to achieve change.
Lets all work together to end the stigma surrounding male mental health.
Lets do it for our sons and our grandsons.
Lets create a better future, for the men of tomorrow.