Society has been upholding with different norms and stigmas strongly. These norms are authoritative, biased, and exploitative in practice to an extent that they play with the mental health and well-being of a person. Men are extremely ignored and overlooked when it comes to the discussion of their mental health.
Men’s mental health is still considered an unreal, impractical, and unmanly subject of debate and discussion. Despite having broad discussions on the importance of mental health, we are still lagging in raising awareness and the importance of men’s mental health.
The question now arises, why men? Isn’t mental health important despite the sex and gender we have? Let us see how and why men suffer in different ways as compared to women.
Ignorance of men’s mental health
The collective ignorance of men’s mental health has adverse effects on men. It not only has proliferated their mental suffering but has also perpetuated toxic masculinity and the social stigma that tags along. This further strengthens the authoritative social norms already prevalent in society.
Men are expected to behave in a certain way, perform a certain role, and uphold and maintain norms, similarly to women. The only difference that lies here is the kind of roles. Men have always been given the title of ‘caretaker’ and ‘the head of the family’. They have to bottle up emotions and affection because that is expected from women. Men are conditioned to think and behave in this certain way that they view these things ingrained and associate it with men’s innate nature.
How many times have we seen men sit and discuss their problems, their emotions, things they love casually and nonchalantly with the family and friends? An aggressive and bold man with a bad temper is viewed as a normal man, but a man that cries, talks about his feelings, likes to cook, or just strays away from the masculine norms is seen as foolish and ‘powerless’. This continued ignorance of men’s mental health and not hearing their vows has done only harm, gave them trauma, and rendered them helpless.
Men and mental health: A burden to carry
Male mental health ignorance has resulted in it being a heavyweight that men carry with them all the time. The unsaid, unheard, and unseen burden to provide for others, being a macho guy and never talking about oneself lest it gives them shams, goes on holding man’s hand throughout his life.
The negativity that builds up, the aggressiveness that grows inside him is a sheer reflection of the burden and the deteriorated mental health of men. The expressing of one’s feelings is seen as equivalent to vilifying the entire male gender and sex.
Men despite conforming to the gender roles always feel pressure on their heads to not be seen as incompetent when they stand with other men. This further constructs and aggravates the societal pressure, which in turn plays with their mental health. While women have the opportunity to share their problems and see a therapist, men aren’t seen in a vulnerable position in society. The only acceptable yet acutely distressing response they have is to carry their anxiety and problems to bed and wake up with them every day.
Men’s mental health is also never brought up in seminars, conferences, or at your dining table discussions. Even at times when it is discussed, it is nothing more than woke posturing or a tokenistic approach to show we care. But the discussion and deconstruction of male mental health need a reformation from within the society where it is deeply-seated.
Men have a relationship with their mental health which is toxic and needs to be fixed else it will end up harming them sooner or later.
Reformation and normalisation
This is where we need to start with the deconstruction: to normalize certain things and reform the others. Men and mental health are a single entity and society and social norms being the other one. What needs to be reformed and what needs to be normalized are strictly separate. Let’s go on with further pondering and reflection:
Society, if seen as a web of social relationships, is downright toxic and unfriendly. Society is made of harrowing norms and roles which are further strictly compartmentalized to the point of pressurizing people to live up to it else it ends up mentally torturing them. There is a need for reformation and re-education of the people that uphold these norms and the social norms which have impaired the society must be abolished. There must be solution-finding, practical discussions about male mental health.
There must be discussion and denormalization of all the social norms like:
- It is acceptable for men to be in a vulnerable position or have too many feelings.
- The burden of providing and being the breadwinner does not fall on them.
- No one knows everything and it is completely normal to be confused.
- It is okay to not know many things and learn them later in life.
Normalization takes time and will be harder for men, but every time a man expresses his emotions and sufferings to you, listen, be attentive, appreciate and find solutions or refer a therapist if there is a need. The ingrained image that empathetic and vulnerable men are less serious and often foolish must be erased. They must be taught about different forms of seeking help and how seeking therapy needs some hard work.
Inclusion of men in their mental health discussions is a compulsion, else it is all futile.
Men should have a platform where they can talk about:
- what stopped them from seeking help,
- what gender norms have a great negative impact on them,
- Things not to say to a man when he expresses
- Things they wish to be normalized for them
- Their harsh experiences
Men’s mental health: A lesson
Practically and socially speaking, male mental health must be an eye-opener to society. Having more fruitful discussions will actively normalize and make it easier for men to open up and have discussions they never had before. The taking off expected gender roles that weigh on them and smashing the ugly and shameful social norms will have a positive effect on men’s mental health.