By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW
“Be a man and take care of it… Real men don’t cry… You’re real sensitive for a guy.” These comments and others like these are often told to men when they try to be open about their emotions. Most men in the United States are raised in a culture that frowns upon their emotional expression. Men are taught at an early age that it is not manly to cry, or to speak about the emotions they are feeling. When left unexpressed, these emotions do not go anywhere-they remain in the system, stuffed down and ignored until they become a full blown mental health crisis.
While society would have us believe that women are far more emotional than men, and that women face more mental health crisis than their counterpart; the numbers support the contrary. Research shows that men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women. It is hard to ignore this alarming number and even harder to deny the fact that something is inherently wrong with the way society treats male emotional expression. Ignoring their emotions and pretending that stress and mental strain does not affect them is not working. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety: According to a poll of 21,000 American men by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly one in ten men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment.
What these numbers tell us is that men are suffering in silence. They are not being supported and are resorting to drastic measures such as addiction and self-harm to alleviate their emotional anguish. According to MindWise, “Men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women: Not only do men binge drink more often than women, men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations. Men are also more likely to have used alcohol before dying by suicide.” How can we become an ally? We start by admitting that the problem exists. We stop perpetuating the negative stereotype that says men are soft if they are emotional. We let them know that it is ok; it is normal to feel and express emotions. We then create safe spaces where the men in our lives feel supported and comfortable enough to open up about the way they are feeling.
Ridgeview Institute understands how hard that can be. This is why we are committed to providing support for the men in our community who are suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. We have men’s programs at each of our two locations specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the male population. Our doors are open 24/7 to support you and your loved ones. We offer no cost assessments to help begin the journey to wellness. If you or someone in your life is struggling and needs support due to deteriorating mental health; you cannot afford to wait-seek help today!