Gender Roles and Men’s Mental Health

Men are socialized to be strong and steadfast; they are expected to be protectors and providers. We often talk about how this affects women and the way women are treated but it is important to discuss how this affects men’s lives. Though their actions uphold it, many men are not responsible for building the system of patriarchy that informs how they should act, they are raised within the confines of this system and it is also detrimental to their well-being.

Statistically speaking, men are far less likely to seek out mental health support and care. They are taught from a young age to adhere to a prescribed image of masculinity; showing no vulnerability and avoiding relying on others. This leads to men’s mental health being an underrepresented topic in mental health awareness.

Men are far more likely to admit physical health problems and it is far more accepted by many people. Men often feel that expressing psychological or emotional stress or pain would be a burden on others. Here are some things to consider about men’s mental health that illustrate the need for more of a focus on it:

· 40% of men stated in a poll that it would take suicidal thoughts or urges to get them to speak to a mental health professional

· 22% of men stated in the same poll that they would not feel comfortable speaking with their primary care physician about their mental health

· It is often believed that men with a mental illness are likely to be violent and volatile

· 40% of patients with anxiety or depression are men

Women’s mental health has been at the forefront of mental health awareness for years. Many mental health advocates are women and women are far more likely to seek out professional support. We forget that men face unique issues when it comes to mental health and that this deserves awareness in and of itself.

The system we live within and the gender roles we perform every day put considerable pressure on men. From a young age they are taught that emotions and vulnerability are innately feminine traits. We need to normalize men’s emotions. We need to make it acceptable for men to express psychological pain and to reach out for help without feeling like a burden.

Mental health is one arena where men are underrepresented. While women need support in finding equality and joining men in the forefront in many areas, mental health is one where men are not the default.

We need to raise awareness for and change views towards men’s mental health. The current attitudes are detrimental to the men’s health because:

· They keep their pain in and very often have no outlet

· They feel added stress due to the fear of being a burden

· They feel added stress due to feeling inadequate of “less of a man” because they struggle

· They are less often checked in on and offered support

· They are taught they should be able to handle it themselves

These things are societal barriers to accessing mental healthcare. Check in on the men in your life. Offer them understanding and compassion. As men, try to overcome the stigma and talk about your emotions. Ask for help when needed. This has to change and every little act of compassion or vulnerability can help.

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© 2020 Valéry Brosseau, Toronto, Ontario

Which stands on the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinabek Nations, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.