Shattering Stigmas: Rethinking Society’s Views on Men’s Mental Health

“Man up”, “Be strong”, “Real men don’t cry ”, “Don’t be a wimp”. 

Among others, these are the messages that have been woven into the fabric of our upbringing. These messages impose an early expectation on young men to hide their emotions. Whether in schoolyard banter, television narratives, or the comments of family and friends, toxic masculinity bombards boys from the moment they shed their diapers.

Even if boys receive encouragement to express their emotions at home and have their feelings acknowledged and validated, the harsh reality awaits them as they step into the outside world. Society often proves unkind to those boys who dare to display their emotions openly, particularly when those emotions are deemed “weak” or “feminine.”

The weight of societal pressures thrust upon men can compel them to repress their emotions, resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, and forgo seeking support when needed. In a study conducted by McDonald et al. in 2017, it was revealed that women are 2.7 times more likely to seek mental health services than men. Furthermore, according to Statistics Canada (2023), men exhibit higher rates of substance use, and the grim statistic that suicide rates are three times higher in men than in women underscores the gravity of the situation.

How can we make a positive change?

It’s crucial to foster an environment where men feel empowered to express their emotions from an early age, ensuring that their feelings are not only acknowledged but also normalized. By promoting the understanding that everyone, regardless of gender, goes through the full spectrum of emotions, and by equipping men of all ages with healthy ways to navigate their feelings, we contribute to a society that can potentially save lives.

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References: 

Statistics Canada. (2023). Suicide in Canada: Key Statistics (Infographic). Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/suicide-canada-key-statistics-infographic.html

Statistics Canada. (2023). Mental Health and Substance Use: Key Statistics (Article). Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2023001/article/00011-eng.htm

McDonald, Bruce & Kulkarni, Madhura & Andkhoie, Mustafa & Kendall, Jeffrey & Gall, Spencer & Chelladurai, Shankar & Yaghoubi, Mohsen & McClean, Stephanie & Szafron, Michael & Farag, Marwa. (2017). Determinants of self-reported mental health and utilization of mental health services in Canada. International Journal of Mental Health. 46. 1-13. 10.1080/00207411.2017.1345045.