Masculinity and Mental Health

Masculinity+and+Mental+Health

Demetria Slyt, General Editor

November is men’s health awareness month, often referred to as “no-shave-November,” which raises awareness of prostate and testicular cancers. This month also broadly acknowledges men’s mental health and suicide prevention. Within the last few years, men’s mental health has been receiving more attention, especially on social media such as Instagram and Facebook. The mental health of men is often disregarded or ignored, due to traditional and societal norms or forced gender roles. In this article I will discuss traditional masculinity, as well as where I believe those ideals are transitioning and look at the ‘new’ modern man. I also want to talk a little bit about how traditional ideas of masculinity can negatively impact young boys’ development and emotional education.  

Traditional masculinity is based around the idea of western “manliness” that revolves around men being stoic, aggressive, and dominant. This is a big factor into why certain phrases exist, such as: “Men don’t cry,” or “be a man!” Which can have very harmful effects on young boys as they mature into adolescence and adulthood. These can manifest into future behaviors such as isolation, repression, substance abuse, and lead to the development of various mood disorders. I think that is really important to disrupt these behaviors early and establish safer environments for young boys to express themselves. Men are more likely to repress their emotions, leading to larger issues later in life and reluctance to seek treatment. Statistically men live shorter lives than women, and men have a higher rate of suicides each year. That isn’t even accounting for the rates of suicide among men in different sexualities and or men of color.  

These ideals have been cemented as societal norms, however, recently they are being brought into attention and challenged. I believe the modern ideal of what it means to be a man is changing, even if slowly. Millennial and Gen-z men are different from those of the past generations because of these slow changes and growing acceptance. They are more open to expressing their emotions, but, because of these societal norms it is hard to escape other individuals’ ideals of what a man is. It is worth noting, that even when we create safe spaces for younger boys to freely express their emotions in a healthy way this can be broken when they go out into the world and their views are influenced by others ideas of what a man is. So, yes, it is an incredibly difficult cycle to change.  

Subjects based around gender are always going to be difficult to discuss, because there are always going to be people who are dismissive, or who invalidate each other’s feelings or feel like one is attacking the other. I think there is something wrong with our society when we cannot have open unbiased discussions with each other and just listen. This year I have had more conversations about men’s issues and mental health with my current partner than I ever have before. I understand and recognize the things that he shares with me as issues that are prevalent in our lives. However, I find it difficult to not say things that invalidate him or things that might be construed as, “We have it harder, so you’re wrong.” I do not find it difficult not because that is something I truly believe. But I find it difficult because these arguments have been so deeply ingrained into our minds that it is hard to break those habits and be open to outside opinions or issues that are seemingly pitted against our own. If you do not have a safe space with your partner or allow your partner a safe space to share ideas and feelings, that is a real issue. This is part of why many men feel they cannot express their feelings to their partners. 

It is important to teach your young boys that it is okay to cry and experience their emotions without feeling shamed or invalidated. Create safe spaces for your sons, nephews, boyfriends, or husbands to share their emotions and establish healthy communication. This has become a trending topic within social media in the last year, and is becoming more normalized. There have also been recent big strides in psychological fields about how to treat male patients, and create inclusive safe spaces. I believe that we, as a society, are changing in a lot of regards but everything takes time. With change there will always be some resistance, but in the larger picture of things the tiny splashes we make now will create bigger waves in the future and make the real impact.  

 

Demetria Slyt is a Dakota Student Editor. She can be reached at [email protected]