The ways in which men and women have been traditionally expected to behave play an important role in mental health.
For men, societal expectations about how men ‘should’ behave and what masculinity is, include the expectation that men are the breadwinners of their families and they display what has traditionally been perceived as masculine traits like strength, stoicism, dominance, and control. A more enlightened view towards men who seek support is made difficult by the language used in terms of mental wellbeing.
People who badly need to express themselves are embarrassed and felt guilty by phrases like ‘man-up’ and ‘act like a man’ when faced with emotional outpourings. A lot of research suggests that men will seek and access help when they feel it will meet their needs and that it will be easy to access, meaningful, and engaging.
Studies have also shown that men are less likely to disclose their mental health problems to their families or friends, and are more likely to use potentially harmful coping techniques, like alcohol and drugs, in response to distress. Men under the age of 50 are most likely to commit suicide.
There are three reasons why men cannot speak up about their emotional and mental health problems: burden, weakness, and embarrassment. When we grow up, we learn that we need to be tough, that men don’t cry and we just need to man up, suck it up and keep going. Therefore, we do not discuss our problems, feelings, or emotions, but rather, hide behind the mask. Men build an ego to pretend that they are strong and everything is great.
Even if we are expected to be strong, I believe men still need to allow themselves to be vulnerable and ask for help when they need it. A strong mentality comes from accepting both sides of your personality.
Families and friends are sometimes the worst people to talk to, even though we think it’ll be best. In an attempt to serve your best interests, they may try to give you advice that won’t work for you or play down your problems.
I would advise you to find someone who can relate to your challenges and have the experience and knowledge to help you with your recovery. If you talk to someone about your mental illness problems, you will not only feel empowered, but you will also have a weight lifted off your shoulders.