Recently, our society has begun to see a small but positive amount of progress in the ability of men to talk about their mental health. Royals, such as Prince Harry, and celebrities, like Terry Crews, are notable figures who have begun to speak out about the sensitive topic of the male psyche, which has led the discussion to become more acceptable in mainstream culture.
A foundation of our societal normality is the stereotype that men must be powerful, that they must lead, and that, perhaps most importantly, they must not show weakness. This is represented by common phrases such as man up as well as others that also demean feminine worth, such as like a girl. These comments can be delivered casually, between friends and family, but are never without their cost.
The danger of contributing to the idea of manning up is most severe in within male mental health. Three out of every four suicides are male. This astonishing statistic is not a recent surge but is actually part of a historical trend and, as studies continue to reveal, there are many issues that challenge men’s health. The majority of rough sleepers are men. They are also more likely to become alcohol dependant and are twenty-two times more likely to be incarcerated. These statistics are pervasive and demonstrate how problematic our society’s masculine expectations are.
These harmful generalisations begin in childhood and the statistics have the same clarity. Boys are three times more likely to be excluded, either permanently or temporarily, and they consistently perform worse than girls in standardised testing.
During a period of personal and physical growth, it is important that we are sensitive to the internal wellbeing of our children. Yet, what we are seeing instead, is the continued difficulties placed upon young boys that are developing into the troubling suicide rates and mental health issues we see in men today.
To begin bettering our society and improving upon the widespread harmful effects of manning up, we must begin taking a step back and letting men talk about their emotions. In 2015, men made up only 36% of those attending psychological therapy. Without an environment that allows men to talk about their emotions or ‘weaknesses’, they will continue to dominate the statistics of mental ill-health.
As our nations, mental wellbeing is put to the test during the lockdown and under the scare of returning COVID-19 case spikes. Furlough numbers are high and, as businesses continue to close, unemployment levels will follow. Being out of work is a major factor that contributes to poor mental health, as well as issues such as depression. As uncertainty continues, alongside the idea that men must provide and be the breadwinner, we are likely to see their mental health issues multiply.
While it can be extremely uncomfortable to talk about your mind and emotions as a man, for the sake of your health, it should be attempted. The Bristol-based psychodynamic therapy and counselling services I provide, offer a non-judgemental environment enabling dialogue about a wide variety of issues both specific and non-specific to male mental health.
To speak to me about these services, or to book an initial consultation, contact me here.