I have been doing mental health advocacy online for a long time now, it’s been almost 3 years, I am most active on Facebook but in the past wrote a lot in this blog about mental health as well. I also make note that the majority of the support groups are geared toward women, they tend to be the most active in self-improvement and mental awareness, I don’t mind that, in fact, the majority of my friends and supporters are women, they are amazing and I learn so much from them.
But talking about gender roles and how men are perceived in this society is something that is a part of my advocacy and something I think about a lot of the time. I think how a lot of men are perceived as unemotional, detached, expected to be the strong ones, they don’t open up with their feelings and don’t show their sensitive sides. I think most people would say that men do have mental health struggles but choose not to talk about it.
I think about it in a different way, I think men can be just as emotionally ( maybe more so in certain cases) open as women, they can be sensitive, they care deeply but they are told to be more open with their emotions, they are dismissed or shamed for being so open emotionally or struggling with mental health, Many people see that a man who is highly sensitive and emotional is weak, which is far from the truth, men who are open with their emotions are the strongest of them all. . So when men feel shamed or unheard, they stop speaking out and keep their struggles to themselves. This leads to worsening mental health issues, which can lead to breakdowns and even suicide.
I myself, don’t feel comfortable in men’s groups because I always get the sense that the unspoken message is ” I have depression or anxiety, but I’m still a man, I’m still tough” and that message bothers me. It makes me feel as though I’ll be judged with this type of thinking so I continue to seek support from my female friends.It’s a contradiction with me. I want to break the stigma of men and mental health and yet I find myself not relating to a lot of men and that is frustrating. And I don’t blame men for being the way they are, it’s the society that raised that, I see it everywhere, especially in the media. Men play sports, they love cars, they never talk about their feelings, they are in control and it’s a tiring message to me because many of us aren’t like that and even within the mental health community, I see men being labeled that way, and it’s a terrible stereotype that keeps men from getting the help they need.
I remember whenever I was in a college classroom and we would have a discussion about men and women and how men never opened up, all they did was drink beer and watch sports and everyone seemed to be in agreement, while I could not relate and I just rolled my eyes because it sounded like every dated comedy routine from the 80s and 90s, like Home improvement, total nonsense to me
I don’t know, it’s an uphill battle because these messages are ingrained in our society and it genuinely bothers me and it was tough to grow up and feel so alienated from that culture, I couldn’t relate, I had guy friends but I never felt a part of things and I much rather have been by myself or talking with my female friends, I just felt so different and when I just started struggling with mental health, I noticed the stigma about how men were treated. Women are freer to talk openly about their emotions while men were laughed at for being too sensitive. All I can do is write what’s in my heart and lead as an example. I hope this post can make somewhat of a difference and maybe give you a different perspective of the need to break the stigma of men and mental health.