How do we get Men to open up about their emotions and feelings?
Men's mental health has traditionally been a taboo subject for many. Male suicide figures have made it an impossible subject to ignore and these are the best ways of helping every man engage and express their feelings.
The current issue
In 2021, there were 4,129 recorded male suicides across England and Wales. The majority of men across the UK, particularly the older generation find it difficult to talk about their emotions. This is mainly due to their upbringing and society's expectations of men.
Traditionally, men were expected to be strong and brave in order to protect and serve their families. Many men were previously involved in the armed forces due to conflicts in the past and hence where raised in a very regimented manner. This strict upbringing led to the idea of having a stiff upper lip being a sign of strength and thus any sign of showing emotion being a sign of weakness among men.
However, the expectations of society for men have changed over the past 20 years. Although they are still seen as being the strong support of a family, the role of a man is changing now. This is partially due to the shift away from the man being the only worker of the household, with it becoming increasingly common now for both adults in a family to pursue careers thus lifting some of the pressure away from men. Men are actively encouraged nowadays to manage their mental health by talking to others about their feelings and thoughts but there still seems to be barriers for men when it comes to addressing their feelings.
How men can help each other
Men are far less likely than women to seek professional mental health support. Trying to change the general attitude of men towards mental health support sources is a very difficult task. A more effective method may be to encourage men to seek support from their friends whom they already have a relationship and a level of trust with instead of asking them to open up to a complete stranger.
Many men manage their own mental health through bonding with their friends. Sporting events such as football and rugby matches are weekly events that give many men an excuse to spend time with each other. The importance of such events was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic when many sporting events stopped due to the rules and regulations set in place by governments. This left men isolated and alone which had an adverse effect on their mental health. When sporting events made a return, it gave people an excuse to contact each other and socialise. Many men claimed that it was not the sporting events that they had missed the most, but the socialising with their friends. The sporting events provide an outlet and an excuse for men to see each other, and whether they speak about their feelings or not, they still have an improved mental state afterwards.
Men can also help themselves and others by checking in on their friends. Sometimes all it takes is a quick text message to trigger a man opening up about their issues and seeking help. Many however do not like to reach out to their friends due to the fear of judgement from them as there are masculine urges to be seen as a strong member of the group. This is possibly due to the primal times when there was the need of being part of the tribe in order to increase chances of survival. Men still feel the need to be part of a wider group in order to provide and fulfil their role. This can be shown in many different environments such as their own social groups or in their workplace. Money is the main reason why people work as they need to be able to pay for the basic necessities and also for the luxuries in life. Being seen as weak in the workplace may cause a person to miss an opportunity to further their career such as a promotion to a better paid job. This would provide more for the family of a worker and therefore a man wants to show little emotion in order to maximise his chances of increasing his family's income.
What can you do?
When it comes to dealing with men's mental health, it is difficult to generalise the most effective actions to take as so many men have differing situations and attitudes towards the topic of mental health. Many still feel unable to express how they feel for the fear of judgement from others. Some do not know how to process what they are feeling. However, the movement over recent years has encouraged many men to seek help, both from friends and also professional help. If you suspect that you know a man who may be struggling, then the best thing to do is to approach them calmly and to reaffirm to them that they are allowed to express themselves without being judged. Try to make it as normal a thing as possible as this increases the likelihood of them seeking help when they need it and also more likely to support others.