How many times have you heard the phrase “boys don’t cry”? For decades there has been a disconnect between men and mental health. Boys have been taught that showing emotion is a weakness. And as a result, we’re seeing a generation unable to connect to those around them (and in some cases, themselves). There’s a lack of empathy, kindness, and care. And a lack of understanding of why emotions are important and why every one of us needs to sit with them and process them. We at CPA don’t stand with the notion of our cultural norms definition of what makes a “real man”. We believe that having the identification of “man” is more than enough. But do “real men” go to therapy? Well, we’re a little biased, but we certainly think so.
A Quick Study of Gender and Mental Health
The history of mental health and treatment in our culture is genuinely fascinating. And we want to take a second and point out something that might have affected the way we see gender and mental health today. The practice of psychotherapy was, in fact, created by men treating women with different disorders. And even though those practices became inclusive in regard to treating different ethnicities, linguistics, and specific cultural populations, there still aren’t many guidelines for treating boys and men.
Men and Mental Health
More people are both going to therapy and becoming more vocal about going to therapy. Think about the people you know who openly talk about therapy. Our guess is that the majority of those people are women. That’s because significantly fewer men seek therapy than women.
Consider this statistic for a moment. The suicide rate for men is four times higher than it is for women. Even though technically, more women suffer from anxiety and depression (leading factors in suicide cases). How can that be? Well, when you grow up in a culture that defines manliness with He-Man, limited emotions, a shame if you are not that, why would men seek help?
Mental Health Manifestation
As men have been told to “push everything down”, they have been ignoring and inflicting years of damage and pain within themselves. Men, in general, tend to minimize their own emotional pain. This is dangerous as in a number of cases, this can actually lead to physical health issues.
Bottling things up is also dangerous from the perspective of anger and high-risk behaviors. For some men, they lean into unhealthy amounts of anger and aggression when their bottled emotions reach capacity. Outbursts like these can lead to serious damage and in some cases, become pathways to abusive tendencies. Others engage in high-risk behaviors that can also lead to serious consequences including accidental fatalities.
For too long, culture has been normalizing these times of “acting out”, rather than offering support for treatment to break this dangerous and sometimes violent cycle.
The Challenges Men Face
Toxic masculinity. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard. It is defined as the “harmful beliefs about the nature of masculinity and behaviors associated with it” (Good Therapy). Examples of toxic masculinity include:
- Amount of body mass (muscle)
- Aggressive in nature or physically forceful
- Amount of sex they have
- Ability to push away emotions and feelings
Toxic masculinity is the main challenge men face as they are faced with it as soon as they are born. Boys are encouraged to like things blue or green. Toy companies market trucks, cars, monsters, dinosaurs, and action heroes to them because boys are “tough”. Boys that show interest in anything remotely feminine are mocked, teased, and called “different”. Many believe this behavior has increased shame and homophobia.
Don’t Forget about Fatherhood
Fatherhood is another factor that can induce a large amount of stress and anxiety on a man. Businesses are only starting to consider paternity leave as an option for those wanting to both bond with their new child and support their tired partner at the beginning of this new chapter. Another person in the home means a new amount of financial expenses the family will face. In many families, the man is still seen as the priority breadwinner, meaning they feel the extra burden of that specific stress. Not to mention the lack of sleep during this time which can increase mental illness and physical sickness.
The new priority of the baby also leaves less time for the original relationship. Many men find themselves closing off from their partner during strenuous stretches. Re-closing that door to vulnerability that may have been starting to open, will only make it harder to open it up again.
Men and Mental Health: Real Therapy with CPA
We know you’re doing the best you can try to navigate the new social norms of the world. Admitting you need a bit of help is the strongest thing you can do as it means you can act as a better provider and support system for those you care about and want to protect. As scary as it seems, being vulnerable with your emotions is a way to make your life and the lives of others better.
Life is going to continually throw us obstacles. What matters most is not what comes our way, but how we cope with it. We know you need a toolbox full of skills in order to cope with the challenges that life -especially when friendships are involved. At CPA, we will always encourage patients to explore coping mechanisms that work best for them. However, we also know that a number of those skills come from counseling and different methods of therapy.
Cristina Panaccione and Associates has one locations in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about our counseling services can help teach you the skills to cope with letting go of a friend.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Dave Lori – LPC
Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years. His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.