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4 Reasons Why We Need to Talk About Men's Mental Health

We all suffer. Some more and some less. Today, we live in a time where seeking professional support for mental health is lesser of a stigma however this is still an issue for men. Before we have a closer look at the reasons as to why there is a need to talk about men’s mental health, we need to address the societal conditioning that has led to this notion.

Men have been made to believe that talking about mental health makes them look “weak” or incapable. Should men express their vulnerable side, they would be ridiculed, made fun of or even called names for being too soft. The sad reality is that it isn’t just men themselves that believe they need to seem composed and unaffected, many women hold this view about men as well. So when men express their struggles, they are asked to ‘man up’. Such harsh reactions disable men from taking that brave step in expressing how they feel. Having said that, times are changing and there are more conversations about men’s mental health so we can break free from this barbaric stereotype.

Here are 4 reasons why there is a need to talk about men’s mental health:

Men are made to believe that their outlet is either hanging out with their guys playing sports, lifting weights or drinking in a bar. None of which address the wounds they carry.

Men have no problems hanging out and talking but it is rarely about anything ‘real’. Their ways to connect revolves around masculine activities, which has limited room for real conversations. Even when they are in a bar, they would talk about anything except their inner selves – so topics on politics, women or sports are generally discussed.

When men are expected to show up only behaving in manly affairs, their feminine side (emotions) gets more blocked over time. As this continues, unexpressed conflict result in wounds, which over time mounts up. Not being taught and encouraged to process emotions will get manifested in some shape or form.

To break free from the stigma that men must suck it (emotions) up.

For too long, men have had to have it together on the outside even if they were all over the place internally. This stigma comes from the idea that showing emotions are weak. A man’s role is to protect others, which comes across as being strong and unaffected emotionally. So if they were to be vulnerable then how would they be able to protect or be there for their loved ones?

While idealistically this is what we (women) want, to be protected but can one protect another if they are (un)knowingly hurting inside? The famous analogy goes: you must wear the oxygen mask first on a turbulent flight before putting it on for your child. So in this situation, men need to have a safe space to release their pent up emotions and trust that it is okay to do so. Only then can they be better men for themselves and others.

To normalize men showing vulnerability, which in turn fosters their relationship with themselves and the women around them.

When men are given the space to be heard and are encouraged to express how they feel, it empowers them (collectively). Men are then made to feel that they can be who they are (strong, weak and everything in between) and they won’t be judged. By doing so, their relationship with themselves strengthens, as they are more in touch with how they feel. As men get accustomed to processing their emotions versus hiding behind them, it also fosters a strong bond with the women in their lives. It is then a win-win situation for all.

It gives the message to boys that men can be expressive of how they feel (all range of emotions).

Boys look up to the men in their lives as a role model of how to be a man. The good and not so good traits are learnt through what they see (not what they are told). So when they see their fathers, elder brothers, uncles, cousins and so forth not shying away from their emotions, it acts as a framework for the younger male generation to have a different narrative when it comes to expressing vulnerability.

Talking about men’s mental health may initially seem awkward for men and perhaps even for women who are trying to hold space for their man. Know that if we as women want to have healthier relationships with our counterparts (men), then it takes us women to be open in being uncomfortable with discussing how men feel and giving them the encouragement to open up. Whereas for men, know that you are supported and guided as you embark on this feminine journey of peeling off the layers of unresolved pain. We (women) have your back!

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