When it comes to mental health, those who identify as men are so often told to, “man up”, “grow a pair”, “don’t be such a girl”. Since childhood, many of us have heard these phrases thrown around, with little or no thought as to the harm this stereotyped terminology can cause.
In this article, we are going to look at the archaic language of male mental health, why this may prevent men from speaking out, and how you can support men when they express emotion.
The Harm Of Stereotyping
It is commonly known that the rate of male suicide is higher than women’s – three times more likely in fact. Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why this is the case. Research by Samaritans suggests that societal expectations of the ‘role’ of a male to be strong, to provide, to support have a huge impact on mental health. This idealized view is one that requires men to not feel, share emotions, or admit to struggling or needing help.
Indeed, this stigma goes some way to explaining why men are much less likely to reach out for support and access mental health services. Research has shown that only 36% of mental health referrals are for men. It also begs the question, if men are supposedly doing all the providing and supporting. Who is providing and supporting them?
There appears to be a common notion that not all individuals can experience mental health difficulties. Everyone has a mind and therefore everyone is on this mental health continuum purely and simply because they are human and can experience emotions.
Without a doubt, men are not exempt, and study after study proves that one in eight men have a common mental health problem. Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. Our own research has shown that more than 50% of fathers feel overwhelmed by changes in life due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Google search volume for ‘men’s mental health charity has increased by 40%, I could go on…
Even the practice of escapist behavior, such as spending a lot more hours working or obsessing over a hobby.
These behaviors are often a sign that someone is burying their head, along with their mental health, in the sand. But do we ever stop asking ourselves why this might be the case? Why does this individual, who may be a colleague, employee, or loved one, not want to confront their emotions or accept their struggle?
We can find some answers in the way we have been brought up and the attitudes we have experienced, towards mental health and wellbeing. The toxic language attached to the mental health of men, “crying like a girl”, “man up”, “grow a pair”, invalidates how an individual may be feeling, and insinuates that it is a weakness to not quickly and silently deal with emotions.
These phrases worm themselves into our belief systems. They can alter our perceptions and the way that we view and interpret the world for our entire lives. I cannot help but wonder how many of those men that took their lives was due to their perception that they could not reach out for support because they needed to ‘man up’ or ‘grow a pair.
We must stop and take note of the impact this type of language is having on those who identify as male. To consciously change our approach to how we talk about male mental health. Irrelevant to gender, societal status, or identity, it is critical men are not made to feel ashamed to look after their mental health in the same way that they wouldn’t hesitate to engage in rest-and-recuperation for a broken bone.
Who Is The Author?
Luci Ironman is a Psychological Wellbeing Facilitator for Vita Health Group. She has been working and volunteering in the mental health and wellbeing sector for the past seven years.
Over the past number of years, Lucie has worked as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner from a Trainee up to a Senior Practitioner for the NHS. She is passionate about raising awareness surrounding mental health and reducing the stigma attached.