In her second moving and emotional column, Bronagh Loughlin points out that the macho man image that surrounds males can cause problems when times get tough.
by Bronagh Loughlin
While women and men both experience mental health issues, men experience more stigma surrounding mental health. The reason for this seems to be down to society’s rules that men are not allowed to show feelings and if they do, somehow this makes them weak.
This stigma that makes men out to be weak for showing emotions is what stops many men from seeking out help for their mental health issues. As a result, they often bottle up these issues, only to feel alone in dealing with their problems.
According to The Journal, men account for eight in ten suicides in Ireland. A valid reason for this could be not speaking to someone or sourcing the appropriate help. Men face extra stigma when it comes to mental health and this is because men are supposed to be macho and strong.
Although women with mental health issues experience stigma and discrimination for having a mental health issue, women are expected to have these emotions while men are not. It’s ridiculous really, when are we going to stop treating men as though they are a cold rock?
Besides, what is wrong with showing feelings and emotions anyway? In some ways, a man going against the system showing these feelings and emotions shows me just how strong they really are.
Anyone who goes through a mental health issue is a strong person. They have spent a great portion of their life essentially having a battle with their own mind. They have felt the worst of it and have gotten back up time and time again.
What part of this does not illustrate strength? These gender roles do not help with much, particularly not in the face of mental health issues. By men not sharing how they are feeling or seeking out the appropriate help, their lives are on the line.
They worry they will be shamed, emasculated and who can really blame them to feel this way when we refer to them with words like ‘sensitive’ that carry such a negative connotation.
Men are pressured to constantly be strong and act as a hero from a very young age right up until they start their own family. In our society, it seems there is no room for men to crack, to have an emotional breakdown, they just have to get on with it.
This is a huge amount of pressure to be coping with. Men have a hard time admitting that the problem is happening as a result of people not knowing how to react to the idea of men having a mental problem
It’s not all society’s fault either, men experiencing more shame and stigma regarding mental health issues also comes down to how they were raised. Were you as a man taught when you were growing up that you had to be strong and quiet?
Were you told when you fell and cried to wipe away the tears, that it’s nothing? Did the other kids laugh at you when you cried at just about anything? It is believed, whether you want to admit it or not that men are strong enough to fix all their own problems.
Men are afraid to show the vulnerability that women often show even when they are physically unwell, they want to illustrate a strong front. As a result of all of this additional stigma towards men’s mental health issues, men often live in denial of their mental health issue until they reach a point where they can no longer cope.
hey reach a point where they can no longer cope.
At this point, they often still will not speak to anyone as they fear shame and ridicule and as a result, their well-being continues and continues to go down. They may even turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol.
There is a real danger present here not just in that a man has to carry their struggle alone essentially but also, when people go on with an untreated mental health issue, the issue can often turn into a physical ailment, especially when using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.
We need to stop positioning men as only heroes and protectors that are not allowed to feel. Men have the right to have feelings and emotions, they are allowed to release them by crying, they can have an emotional breakdown if they need to.
Men’s mental health matters, we need to stop making them feel pressured to only appear strong. Having a mental health issue and showing it is not weak. Seeking out help is not weak. Stigmatisation has huge implications particularly for men and we need to end the stigma once and for all.
If you, or anyone you know is affected by this column or may need help, call these crisis helplines:
Samaritans – 116 123
SoSad – 041 984 8754