Men, how many times have you heard things like “man up”, “it’s just a breakup”, “Men are bad at expressing what they exactly feel”? aren’t these comments reflective of how much you value your emotions?
Across the world, Males commit suicide at a higher rate than females, and India is no exception. Yet, men’s mental health is an issue that is rarely touched upon. We all have fathers, uncles, brothers, partners and friends in our lives and their mental health should be a matter of significance. Time and again research has proved that there are significant differences in the structures of male and female brains. These variances result in a few cognitive differences among men and women. Does that mean they differ in their emotional needs as well? That men don’t want to feel cherished and loved because these are very feminine concepts?
Many times, we feel that guys do not express what they feel and it is very difficult to talk to them about their fears and insecurities. As a consequence, we end up labelling them as emotionally detached. Well, is it emotional detachment or are they wired like that? There are numerous beliefs that are taught to young boys such as, being more aggressive as well as physically forceful means being “manly” or being emotionally vulnerable and acknowledging one’s emotions is too feminine. Whenever a boy cries, he’s laughed upon. These rigid and toxic standards of “being a man” are called Toxic Masculinity. These usually take place in childhood and often manifest in the form of anger and other mental health problems in adulthood.
Often it is believed that a man does not feel as many emotions as a woman and they never have any extreme feelings or reactions to incidents. Guys are expected to have everything under control and they must get over everything very quickly. Opinions like these might also be a reason as to why they don’t share a lot about what is going on inside them. Instead, they end up putting an “everything under control” face. They feel responsible for people around them and might prefer not to burden anyone by venting out. Additionally, this can also lead them to bottle things up and turn rigid.
The hoarding of all the feelings inside may lead them to feel lonely and drive them towards unhealthy ways of coping, such as smoking or drinking. This cache of negative emotions might manifest later in the form of bigger mental health issues such as depression, anger issues and aggression.
Absence of any visible illness or issue alone is not a sign of good mental health. It also includes understanding, acceptance, healthy coping and the ability to bounce back. Consequently, there is a dire need for them as well as women in their life to take care of their emotional and mental needs.
It’s okay for a man to feel any kinds of emotions he is feeling and take assistance to cope with it. The very important thing to keep here in mind is, never react extremely (whether laugh or express a lot of surprise and shock) when a Guy expresses emotions. We need to make them feel that it is completely normal for them to express their feelings.
How to help them through?
Just because you think you can handle it doesn’t mean you should or need to do it alone. To all the Fathers, Brothers, Partners and Friends out there!!
- Start by having regular light conversations with him on different topics. This may bring a sense of closeness and comfort.
- Ask him if he is okay when you sense that there is something off about him. He might not be comfortable to share at first so keep patience.
- Do not jump to any conclusions and judgements while they are talking to you. Sometimes listening to someone unconditionally is the balm.
- Remind them what they are good at once in a while. This will make them feel encouraged and optimistic. Positive regards always work wonder!
- Make them understand that the notion, “talking about it is not going to help”, is not helpful because ignoring it is not going to make the whole problem disappear out of your life. Talking to someone helps you to reduce the intensity of negative feelings. It helps to reflect upon your thoughts and lessen the emotional burden which helps generate clear thinking.
- Encourage them to do their favourite activities and meet their close friends when they seem a little down.
The cultural expectations that have been carved by society are rigid and not going to change overnight. Thankfully, many people are now realising the need to break these taboos and stigmas. It is high time to realise that emotions and reactions are not gender-specific and they never were.
“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.” – Russell Wilson