Happy Father’s Day!
And Happy Men’s Health Month!
It’s a good time to discuss men’s health needs, especially their mental health needs. In the United States, men’s mental health needs are still underdiagnosed, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and other illnesses. That’s troubling, when the statistics also tell us that men are 4 times as likely as women to commit suicide. What are we missing? Why don’t men get the help they need?
There are many factors at play, of course, but one of the most powerful influences are our cultural expectations for men to always be strong and to never show weakness. Everyday expressions like “be a man,” “have some balls,” “wimp,” “wuss,” “man up” are examples of this cultural expectation. While ideas of femininity and LGBTQ have evolved in and expanded in the past decades, the idea of masculinity remains a pretty narrow concept: strong, tough, successful, in charge. It’s rare for the media to show male figures who have full expressions of human emotion, including anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and sadness. Men and boys aren’t encouraged to communicate about their inner lives, and it then becomes difficult to even find the words to tell others how they feel. And this makes them lonely: men on average develop far fewer intimate friendships than women do. All of this combines to make it very challenging for a man to say, “I need help/support/someone to listen to me.”
The Representation Project is working on ways to represent fuller pictures of boys and men in our culture, including men communicating thoughts and feelings with each other and their children. They’ve put together a video as a Father’s Day gift:
Check out these other helpful resources for men's communication and mental health: