What is the stigma surrounding men's mental health and how can we break it?
'Man up'. A phrase that most men would have been told at some point in life. What does it mean? Does being a man mean not showing emotion? Can I not express pain or sadness? What does being a man mean to you? Ask yourself and have a think. We are told being a man is to be strong, emotionally stable and to provide. We are not told men are to express emotion, to open about struggles and to be vulnerable. Instead, men are told to 'Man up'. The phrase may be simple and thrown about, but the stigma around mental health is perpetuated and fuelled through sayings such as 'Man up' when a man expresses emotion. How can we expect men to open up when being constantly told to shut off?
The stigma surrounding this topic is real and it is not just people being 'snowflakes'. Three times as many men as women die by suicide, more men report lower life satisfaction than women, men are less likely to access psychological services, and two in five men report feeling low. Not enough men talk about it and it causes a high amount of suicides each year, and it is still not taken seriously enough. Why is that though?
The expectations and stereotypes of men play a role in why men are less likely to seek help and speak out. Society's expectations of men are very traditional. Men are supposed to be the breadwinners, be strong, be in control in all aspects of their lives. These aren't bad qualities to have, but it is important to highlight that if you don't have these things, then you aren't any less of a man or a person. Due to men being less likely to speak about problems, men are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol when facing problems because they feel that is easier than opening up.
How we can beat the stigma
Although a sensitive and personal topic, there are ways we can all make each other feel comfortable sharing problems and beating the stigma surrounding men's mental health. Check up on your mates regularly, you never know what someone is going through and all it may take is for someone to ask if they are okay. Create a safe space for someone to open up, be approachable and let them know that you are there to listen because sometimes people will feel they'll be a burden if they open up. There are movements to break the stigma such as Movember, so maybe try that with your mates to support the task at hand. Try to keep up to date about help that is out there, local support groups, help lines, let your mates know there is help out there because there is always someone to listen no matter what. Also, don't forget to look after yourself, balance your work life balance, don't be hard on yourself.