Reach out to men in your life
April 25, 2021
Be strong. Be a support system. Be immune to pain. Do not display weakness. Do not admit you are suffering. Do not bestow vulnerability. The unspoken messages of toxic masculinity do incredible damage to a space where growth is essential– mens’ mental health. Depression is not subject to a gender. Having X and Y chromosomes does not provide immunity to struggle. Men do not deserve to be shamed for admitting they are not emotionally bulletproof.
The positive statistics of men and mental health are unsettlingly vague. It is heart-rendering to know that 49 percent of men do not admit the severity of their mental state. That means nearly half of men who suffer do so silently. Men are also less likely to admit to being afflicted by suicidal thoughts, but the suicide rates for men are four times higher than for females.
I am not a man. I have no idea what it means to feel pressured to struggle silently because of how society wants me to portray myself. My point is not to speak on behalf of men. I hope to encourage others, along with myself, to reach out to the boys in your life that are showing signs that they are struggling.
With depression, there is not one telltale sign that a boy might be suffering; some might come off irritable or dismissive, while others could become distant and closed off. Depression does not take one form. Knowing that something seems negatively unusual about a person is enough to show concern. It is worth risking “being annoying” about asking if somebody is alright if it means potentially saving a life.
Many men will not accept your support. Society has built a stigma for men to feel shame for allowing mental aid. That in itself is devastating. But a vital piece in being a female ally in male mental health advocacy is being consistent in your presence. Be there. Displaying your willingness to reach out a hand will generate an atmosphere in which a boy might be inclined to open up. But there are also instances where a human being needs space to be independent, so recognizing and acknowledging that is also crucial.
With all of this in mind, Remind yourself that you are not a professional or responsible to take on others’ burdens. Offer personal advice and comfort, but know there are professional resources available to help a person suffering from mental health issues. You are not responsible for miraculously curing one’s depression or anxiety. Your companionship and eagerness to search for professional advice are enough to show you care about one’s well-being.