Disclaimer: Please note this article is written in the context of a specific life path of learning and perception; this is not intended to group all male people into one category. This article is written to emphasize a specific gap in education that happens consistently in the United States that male people may or may not have experienced in their lives. Our culture in America has taken a huge toll on the relationship men (male presenting people) have with their own mental health. They are taught through various communities to "man up" and "get over it" when it comes to any events that may affect their mental health.
Men are hurting!
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states, "1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc." In the context of domestic violence, if we are not allowing boys to grow up learning healthier ways to self regulate anger, sadness, aggression, and other emotions how do we expect them to have healthy adult patterns of engaging with others? There is a lot of work to do on educating people on developing healthier communication, self-regulation, and self-awareness to diminish the potential for violence.
Mental Health America's most recent data reports that approximately 6 million men are currently experiencing depression symptoms. Yet ONLY about 13.4% of men seek mental health services in America according to the Center of Disease Control and Preventions analysis in 2019. If this statistic does not highlight the vast gap in men seeking mental health support I am not sure what else will. We all know a male person who is out there saying these false claims such as, "I'll be fine", "I'll get over it", "no worries", "I'll go sweat it out." The scariest part of those phrases being familiar is that it is am example of how internalized these false claims become in our minds.
How do we change this?
Now that we touched the surface of how bad this situation is, let's draw in some hope. Some ways we can all help male presenting people:
- Words Hurt- Try to rephrase things without being accidentally emotionally invalidating. Example: "I am concerned you are getting depressed," "I get you think you can handle this alone, but an outside perspective can really help you make positive changes- just like a coach helps you become better at the game."
- Find a feminist therapist- You might be saying "why Simone?" and I'll tell you why. Feminist therapist's are coming from the ideology that our society has put invalidating labels, roles, boxes, etc on all of us based on white supremacist/oppressive views engraved in our culture. By having a feminist therapist, you will begin to break down those false ideas of self and build a fully formed true self that aligns more with your own values and self-love.
- Changing Communities, A Generation at a Time: We always have the opportunity to become more educated, more whole, and better equipped for mental wellness. In the millennial generation, we are now slowly realizing the attributes our parent generation gave us are toxic & mentally harmful. We are unlearning the boxes that they lived in, to break free into our own worlds. It all starts with you and instilling positive new ways of doing things to diminish the invalidating roles men receive early in life (where are all my new parents at? you are changing the WAY!).
- It is Okay to Correct Yourself- A big part of unlearning is knowing we might slip up & make a mistake. THIS IS OKAY. The best way to deal with it is to correct yourself in the moment. (eg. "I'm sorry if I was dismissive when you just said you felt down, I am still learning how to talk about this directly rather than sweeping it under the rug.")
This is just the surface of how we can support male presenting people with dismantling negative narratives around mental health and wellness. The better mental health support we all have- the healthier our communities, relationships, families, and lives can be.
All images in this post are via Canva.