Masculinity, suicide and mental health
We are in many ways governed through a process of socialisation. Our ideas of who we are and who we should be are heavily influenced by socio-cultural norms. Think of these as invisible and prevalent messages we receive from family, peers, media and etc.
Men are at greater risk of suicide and the charity Campaign Against Men Living Miserably (CALM) identify that the biggest killer of men under 45 in 2015 was suicide. This can be said to be influenced by what it means to be ‘a man’ and notions of masculinity and hyper-masculinity. Men internalise ideals such as: I must be strong, in control, man up and cope. These beliefs can lead men not to communicate what’s going on for them internally. Therefore men may feel shame and fear around not having been ‘man enough’. That by not being man enough men are being emasculated. Which may lead to an unwillingness to talk, to communicate emotional states which often only exacerbates the issue, impacting on mental well being. There is a perceived stigma around appearing vulnerable. Which impacts upon masculine pride.
We are at a time where there is appropriate space to discuss and challenge more traditional stereotypes. Yet, still, the pressure to be a ‘man’ can have crushing and devastating consequences on men’s mental health.
Creating an environment of comfort and of trust, support, reflection, hope and challenge are vital. It is OK to seek help for mental health difficulties and to find ways through whatever it is you are going through. Better communication is essential. Break down stigma and resulting pressures, break the silence. Challenge what you think and the impact it has upon you. Explore what you feel. Find new insights, meanings and create a better self-view. Being vulnerable takes great strength and can be a necessary starting point for change.
If you are facing these issues speaking to a counsellor may help.