“Suck it up.” “You don’t need to talk about it.” “You are stronger than that.” Statements like this are very common for men to hear throughout their lives. Society teaches men from a young age to not express their emotions. There is a large stigma surrounding men’s mental health. Unfortunately, our society has told boys and men to not talk about their feelings. Society has told men that if they express how they are feeling then they are not as strong as they should be. This causes men to push down their emotions and to not ask for help. We know that men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, substance abuse, and stressful life events. We also know that men die by suicide at a rate of 3.54 percent higher than women.
As a society we must change these statistics. And as a society we have the power to change these statistics. One way we can begin to change the stigma associated with men’s mental health is to educate individuals on what exactly mental health is. Unfortunately, there are still people who believe that having emotional difficulties or struggles is a sign of weakness or failure. Mental health is something every single person has, and we all must find ways to process the many different emotions we feel. There are also mental health conditions that individuals have. Mental health conditions are medical problems. There are treatment options for individuals that have mental health conditions, both men and women. The only way individuals can receive that help is if they are willing to ask for help. Therefore, as a society we must continue to break down the stigma, so all people, men and women, feel like they can ask for the help they need and deserve.
If there is ever a man in your life who opens up to you about how they’re feeling, listen to what they have to say. Do not dismiss their feelings, but instead listen and validate what they are saying. It takes courage for anyone to express their feelings. It can be especially difficult for men to share their emotions because of societal expectations.
As mentioned above, there are steps we can take to decrease the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. It is important to educate ourselves and others on mental health and the different treatment options for mental health conditions. It is also important to validate individuals when they are discussing their emotions. Having feelings is not something that only women experience, all individuals have feelings, so it is critical we are all able to discuss our emotions. If we continue to have conversations surrounding mental health there will be more individuals, both men and women, who feel more comfortable expressing their feelings, which will lead to more individuals living happier and healthier lives.
Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profit organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.