Almost four times as many men lose their lives to suicide each year as compared to women. Mind boggling, right? In fact, 30,308 men committed suicide in the United States in 2010, according to information gathered from the Movember Foundation. When put into numerical terms, the deterioration of men’s mental health seems much more prominent than what the public media portray. An important issue to make note of is that our society, while making strides to address mental health as a whole, has not spoken up about men’s mental health in the same magnitude.
I imagine you have talked about gender roles sometime in the recent past. Whether in class or with a group of friends, it is a hot topic — especially in Ithaca. Stereotyped actions and personas men are placed into can dramatically affect their mental health. Boys, from a young age, are expected to be strong and tough. They are told to put up walls, man up and avoid displays of emotion at all costs.
For this reason, the stigma of mental health is in many ways increased for the male population. If it is wrong to have feelings, then it is definitely frowned upon to see a therapist or ask for help. Men are forced to live up to society’s hyper-masculine standards in a similar way women are forced to live up to hyper-sexualized ideals. The difference? We, as a whole, recognize that women should not be placed into these boxes. We have yet to realize the same for men.
There is a long-standing stereotype that women gather to gossip and talk about their feelings, while men bond in a much less emotional, chatty manner. One of the first steps to diminishing the stigma against men sharing about their emotions, is to allow the conversation about mental health to filter into normal interactions. Drop the expectation that men can only speak in length about sports culture.
The Mental Health Foundation has reported that about twice as many women are treated for mental illness than men — 29 percent as compared to 17 percent — but a possible cause for this could be that men are less likely to report having a mental illness in the first place. They are taught that it is wrong, more so than women, to not be in control of emotions. There is a greater chance of ridicule and ostracism if a man admits to problems with mental health.
Obviously, as a woman I do not have complete grasp on the pressures of masculinity, but the only way to begin to understand it is to talk about it. Beginning the conversation is the first step. I encourage you to go to your male friends and ask them about how they are really feeling and start to change the idea that men are not allowed to have emotions.