In today’s society, the stigma behind mental health struggles is on the rise among men. Many factors contribute to it, one being the societal expectations and traditional gender roles expected of men. “The concept of ‘manliness’ as being strong and in control can mean it is seen as a weakness to ask from help. If men feel a pressure to appear strong, this can stop them from opening up. This can both cause and exacerbate mental health problems.”
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Mental Health & Masculinity
The idea behind masculinity and what it means to be a man has been ingrained and conditioned into many men’s minds since childhood. During childhood, men have been surrounded by male figures who are self-sufficient, strong, and capable. Daphne Rose Kingma, the author of ‘The Men We Never Knew,’ has said, “We’ve dismissed men as the feeling-less gender – we’ve given up on them. Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systemically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves”.
Vic Seidler also argues that “as men, we learn to treat emotions and feelings as signs of weakness. This makes it difficult for us to come to terms with our emotional lives and relationships. Displaying weakness is difficult for men since this threatens our very sense of masculinity.”
There is a stigma associated with mental health, and it can be even stronger for men who are suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, stress, and other mental illnesses. Many boys learn from an early age that they are not supposed to express vulnerability. They are told to suppress most emotional responses, which sadly leads to suicide among our men.
Men’s mental health is important, but it does not get enough attention, and it is a crisis that is on the rise. But today, I have an amazing blogger here with us to talk about men’s mental health and why it matters! Meet Joey, who resides in the United Kingdom and strongly advocates and stresses how real men’s mental health is. He is the creator and author of Concealed Voices, where he talks about his life’s journey, mental health among men, and so much more!
Here’s his story:
My journey and struggle against my mental health started during the most enduring period of my life. I was juggling with redundancy, a breakup, and my grandmother’s passing. At times I feared it would push me to suicide. The images of me hanging from a rope in the woodland next to my house did cross my mind daily; I thankfully never brought any harm to myself or those who still care for me now.
However, I was still a lost man in society. I had to find a new purpose to continue living because deep down, my grandmother would be heartbroken if she ever saw me hurt myself. I guess my purpose in life was to push on in her memory and achieve my dreams for her. I also had a responsibility to care for my grandad because he was alone now. She passed away a couple of months before their Diamond (60th) wedding anniversary. He was distraught, so it was my duty to stay by his side. We shared her loss and got on with life together.
The creation of my blog was escapism from the real world. A little corner of the Internet where I can share my thoughts, feelings and hopefully inspire others, especially men. We’ve been drilled from birth to never express our feelings, and any exposure of it is viewed as a sign of weakness. In my opinion, a foolish mindset, and I know millions will agree, that this has only done more harm than good. It makes you wonder how many men cover up their emotions because they don’t want to be judged by others. True friends will support you if they genuinely care about your wellbeing and couldn’t care less about your status/reputation.
I suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s something I wouldn’t have admitted in the past due to the stigma attached to men. I don’t know why everything has to be a damn competition between us. “Oh, just get on with it, mate,” is a common response you often hear before they switch the conversation back to football (and not giving any consideration to how you’re feeling inside). This type of “laddish” behavior probably contributes to men’s suicide because the victim was surrounded by morons who never had his best interests. I urge any young men reading to be careful and pick your friends wisely.
I developed my anxiety before depression kicked in. I’ve always been an introvert, but I had become more outspoken and confident in my approach to facing challenges over time. I was addicted to the gym, took care of my body, and had a healthy diet. However, I was a different man after my life broken into a million pieces. I was a shadow of the man I was proud of. I worked so hard to rebuild my life after a troubling experience at school, where I was teased for my acne and seen as an outcast. I created the best version of myself between 18 and 24 years old – a young, successful, driven, hardworking, athletic, and kind man. Yet I was beginning to lose everything (and everyone) around me. I could no longer look another man in the eyes without feeling nervous. It got so distressing that I didn’t enter a store for a few months because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I just wanted to hide away from the world.
I started to regain control of my life by finding my purpose, desires, and dreams. I’m just as important as the other 7 billion of us. I know I’m going through my mid-life crisis much earlier than anticipated, but I’ve watched and read stories of other people who had it worst – and they just got on with it. When I look at the bigger picture, although my issues are significant for me, I know they’re minuscule compared to the horrors some people live through daily. Deep down, I know I can get through it with courage, determination, and self-belief.
My first signs of depression appeared after losing my grandad to cancer (2 years after losing my grandmother). I had no motivation to do anything after he left me, but I wasn’t sad. I was confused more than anything. I was detached from society. I stopped caring about the world, my friends, or any attempt to improve myself. I keep getting knocked down every damn time I got my life back on track. I’m mentally exhausted over these years of pain and neglect; what’s the point of me being alive, truthfully?
As I draw my story to a close, I want you to realize that there are millions of men such as your fathers, brothers, or boyfriends, who feel the same way as me but don’t know which direction to take. Behind our smiles and laughter are some lost souls. We continue to strive forward in life for different reasons. Mine is to honor my family for all they did for me and to make them proud, hopefully.
Thank you so much Joey for sharing your story with us! Typically it is not easy for men to open up and talk about their emotions and vulnerability, but you are one of many men who are now shedding light on the importance of men’s mental health. Your story will help many other men who may be struggling to open up about their feelings and seek the professional help that they need. You are truly a gem! Visit Concealed Voices today!
Supporting Our Men
We all cope, manage, and express our emotions in various forms. Our culture, upbringing, and society’s role have influenced how men are viewed and received when they express their emotions outwardly. It is time to break that stigma so that our men can have the support they need during their moments of vulnerability. Here are some ways to support:
- Acknowledge that men’s mental health is just as important and women’s
- Support mental health education that addresses both mental illness in men and women
- Look for interventions aimed to encourage men and boys to connect more on a personal level
- Listen and be patient
- Establish trust and loyalty
- Encourage positivity
- Encourage seeking professional help
- Kingma, D. (1994). The men we never knew: how to deepen your relationships with the man you love. Berkeley, Ca: Conari Press.
- Men and mental health: a damaging stigma (2020). BMI Healthcare. https://www.bmihealthcare.co.uk/health-matters/mens-health/men-and-mental-health-a-damaging-stigma
- Todd W. Reeser & Lucas Gottzén (2018) Masculinity and affect: new possibilities, new agendas, NORMA, 13:3-4, 145-157, DOI: 10.1080/18902138.2018.1528722
This was great and well written. It is so true. And not only do men mask their feelings but a society as a whole have that same belief that men should be strong and masculine and never show their emotions. I really enjoyed the individual stories too. Well done! Thank you for sharing.
Thanks Tammy for your feedback! The stigma that society has placed on our men when it comes to them showing emotions, is really damaging to their mental health, and why need to break this cycle by normalizing men’s mental health. Happy you enjoyed !
Wonderful post! It’s so important to acknowledge and end the stigma of men’s mental health. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with very helpful information.
Thanks so much JoJo! I am happy you enjoyed this post and found it helpful!
It’s interesting how Joey tells us that he had to support his family after the bereavement. I think it’s good to try and focus on others when we are in the depths of despair, because it keeps our minds away from our problems for a while, even if it’s for a short while. He really is an inspiration to men, and so right when he states that it’s important to choose friends wisely, one’s that support and not tear down. Lovely post 😊
Thanks so much for your feedback Pip. Joey is amazing and loves that he is shedding light on this topic. He has so many great points and helpful techniques and advice to support our men!
Oh my, I love this post. Its such an important topic that isn’t talked about enough! Thanks for sharing 💜
Thank you, Joey, for bravely sharing your story! This is such an important topic that needs more light shed on it!
Thanks so much for your feedback Randi! definitely an important topic that needs to be talked about more. It’s really great that Joey is one of many, working on breaking this damaging stigma against our men.
I agree with everything you said. We must change the definition of masculinity. It’s ok for an alpha male to cry. Crying won’t make them less manly.
Spot on Fadima! Crying doesn’t mean a man is weak. Rather it shows strength and shows that men are okay with expressing their feelings so they can heal and move on. Keeping those intense emotions bottled up is not healthy for anyone. Male and female. Thanks for your feedback!
Great post!!! Ive been seeing so many women talking about their mental health challenges and no men. I was so excited to see Concealed Voices featured in your post as I have seen him around the Twitter verse. Excellent chap and a wonderful writer! Thanks to you both for highlighting an important topic. Joey, please keep doing what you’re doing❤️❤️❤️❤️🌷🌷🌷
Jessica thank so much for your feedback! Joey is really and amazing guy and writer and I am happy was able to collab with me. He touched on so many important topics when it comes to men’s mental health! We definitely need to break this stigma so our men can begin to embrace their feelings as a way of healing.
Rebekah, nice post and thanks for sharing amazing story of Joey.
Your tips on supporting men are amazing ❤️💖
Good read 😍
Thanks so much Suresh for your feedback. Joey is amazing and I am happy you found these tips to be helpful!
Fantastic post! I absolutely agree that parents are doing wrong by there sons when they tell them not to cry and man up. What else should we expect to come from that then grown men who don’t know how to deal with their emotions?
Thank you Clarissa! Exactly, it really starts from the home, and this cycle has been deep rooted and goes way back by generations. But it i never to late to start to break the cycle! Thanks for your feedback.
I love this! I’ve mentioned before how men are taught not to show their emotions and how damaging that is. I absolutely believe this is something that needs to be discussed more and I’m glad you did
Thanks so much for your feedback Deandra! Breaking that stigma and cycle is so important in today’s day an age!
Loved this! Mental health does not discriminate. But I hate how it’s stigmatized & especially by gender. Things need to change.
Thanks so much and I am happy you loved this post! I agree with you that we need to break this cycle so our men can feel protected when they are being vulnerable.
Indeed it is! Thanks so much!
Very important. Thank you for sharing, as always, I enjoyed reading your work. Thank you!
Sandy, thanks so much for your feedback and I am humbled that you appreciate the content I provide. It means alot!
Very well written and interesting post. It’s so terrible that, among all the stigma around mental health, men are the most affected. At least in my eyes. I know for a fact that if I ever have sons I’ll ensuring they know they are allowed to cry and ask for help if they need to.
Nyxie I couldn’t agree with you more! The stigma associated with men’s mental health is literally killing our men! Suicide rates are on the rise among our men because of this stereotype that suggests that men are not support to feel and be ‘macho’ all the time. Thanks so much for your feedback and you will be a great mother to your future sons. I’m claiming it!
Hi Rebekah. Societal norms have a lot to answer for, don’t they? As an adult male, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have cried (without using all of the fingers!). One of those was when my mum died of cancer. But even then I refused to discuss my feelings with anybody other than my wife – in fact, I hated it if anybody even tried to talk to me about it. The really sad thing is that I tend to assume that other people will feel the same way as I did and so I don’t attempt to discuss similar issues with them – and so the attitude perpetuates …
Richie, thanks so much for your feed. My husband is actually the same as well. It is not that he is afraid or incapable of showing his feelings, but it is rather the outcome of how it will be perceive by others. Societal norms makes it tough and it time for that stigma to go away.
Lovely post, really well written! I genuinely feel rather sorry for the men as it seems they have to “man up” amd not show there feelings like us women. This post was amazing and I feel as a society we must show awareness more about men’s mental health
Thanks Demi for your feedback and I am happy you enjoy! I agree with you, our men’s mental health needs to be protected.
I agree with the post. Growing up in Jamaica, they taught us that men do not cry. That leads to many men drowning their emotions in drinking and smoking. I strongly believe this is one of the reasons what women outlive men.
Mental and emotional health have strong impacts on your physical health
Narado thank so much your feedback. I grew up in the Caribbean as well and you are absolutely right that men are taught that showing emotions is weak. The effects of this as you mention can be very detrimental to a man’s mental health.
This was so well written and so true! Men are conditioned to believe that they cannon show their emotions. I have seen how this impacts my dad, husband, and sons. As our society is becoming more aware, I am hopeful that my sons will have better experiences than my husband and father did.
Thanks so much for your feedback, Heidi. It is really sad to see what society has done to our older male generation and even the young generation today. Men still feel that they have to bottle up their emotions in order to maintain a certain persona. But guess what, the results of this often lead to depression, anxiety, and sometimes even suicide. We as a society have come a long way where there is hope for our men and young adults, but there is still a lot more work to do!
This is such an informative and well written post! You started off with an eye-opening introduction and compiled inspirational stories from different men. I agree with the damaging stigma behind men’s mental health and it hurts me when they don’t get the treatment they deserve. Every man in the world is thank you for this!
Monique, thanks so much for your feedback And I am happy you enjoyed this post. You raise such a great point. Our men do not get the support they need when it comes to mental health! They are always judged and looked at as being weak! This is why depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise for our men! They need to be supported in their moments of vulnerability and not cast aside as weaklings. Men hurt emotionally just as women and it is time for it to be normalized.
Crying is not for women or men. All humans feel say, depressed and everything. This is great to explain the point of a men point. Thank you for sharing!