Men's Mental Health - How to be an Ally
Men’s mental health is a topic in great need of attention. For the first time, maybe ever, the topic surrounding men’s mental health seems to be gaining the momentum and attention it so needs. We’re now living in a time where everyone, including men, are finding it a bit more comfortable to talk about their needs without reserve (or as much reserve as in previous generations). This is not to say things are perfect; if they were perfect, it wouldn’t be so much of a topic needing to be addressed once again and again, and again. In fact, even if things were “perfect”, or if men’s mental health were at least on the same grounds as when we address women’s mental health, we would still need to continue the narrative, as we do with every part of wellness. We are constantly evolving, searching and learning new ways to manage our health and mental health, is really where it all starts.
When I first started blogging, I really didn’t have any expectations as to what I would find in the health and wellness community. However, I did think that I would find more men speaking about health, mental health in particular, because I’d be navigating those spaces. Surely, I thought, I would find numerous men talking about mental health, I mean, it’s a whole community, right? What I found mostly, were women’s health and wellness pages, girl boss pages encouraging women to live their best life, and downright toxic positivity geared towards women and indirectly (sometimes directly) blaming the opposite sex for a lot of their challenges. It took me nearly two months in to really find and get to know some men who blog or have support groups on the topic. These pages don’t have huge followings but they exist and are doing more good than what perhaps there had been available in previous times for men.
Men's mental health needs have been skewed by society as a whole. It is at the hands of society where the blame lies. But what makes up a society? People right? In almost all cultures, men are taught that showing emotions is a weakness. Men are taught that when they grow up, they will be a provider, no questions asked, and that they are the sole protectors of their families (immediate and extended). Men are told that certain professions are manly or that they have to choose only based on what they will make in income rather than seeking a profession that both helps sustain a life they enjoy and also enjoy doing the work they do. In every part of the cultures we live in, be it in our home, on tv, in school and in the workplace, men are held to an unhealthy standard of masculinity; a standard that is unhealthy and damaging of men’s mental health.
It is unhealthy for anyone to feel pressured to provide and to constantly put themselves second because it is “their duty” solely because they were born male. It is unhealthy to have emotions you feel you cannot address because they aren’t well accepted when talked about simply because it is coming from a man. It is unhealthy to repress those emotions and have no release or relief, no outlet and a space in which daily pressures can be discussed in order to lighten the load. It is unhealthy to live in a world of constant expectation put on you merely because you are of the male gender. It is unhealthy to be brought up in societies where you’re told “if you are a real man then…..” or that “be a man” is the solution to moving on with the day’s obstacles. If we replaced all these narratives with the word girl or women, it would be completely unacceptable, be splattered all over social media, protests would be organized and whole movements made in effort to change the narrative.
Men are suffering in deep silence. It is about time more and more men are stepping forward, using modern platforms to connect and speak their truths. It isn’t easy and still quite honestly, still not as common as I mentioned while searching for male bloggers or those who write or talk about this topic in the wellness space. We, “the women”, need to do our part in including men more frequently in the narratives of mental health. Men are not the enemy; they are our counterparts and our partners on this shared space called Earth. They deserve better than what they have been given. They deserve to be heard without judgement, without prejudice and with the full attention that WE WOMEN would undoubtedly expect to be lent to us. If there is a man in your life or even if there isn’t, make sure that you discontinue the narrative that has been handed down generations, about what it means to be a man. We can begin to change the narrative and increase the comfortability of men talking about this topic by engaging with intention. See below
Ways you can become a men's mental health ally
- Asking them how they are, just because. They also like to be taken care of.
- Ask if they need help (yes, even when you might “know” they will not say they do) it helps to know you’re willing.
- Be a good listener, not just a speaker.
- Be supportive, men need space too.
- Be a true partner. Aim to give as much as you receive.
- Be compassionate. Men have been told the same story for hundreds of years; it will take time for them to believe they are worthy of this space.
- Encourage them to speak out. Hold space for them and accept them. Reiterate knowing the strength and courage it takes to ask AND receive help. Being vulnerable is no easy feat.
- Be resourceful. Taking care of themselves is a foreign concept; be ready to lend a hand in how they can navigate through the mental health space.
- Continue to normalize therapy. If they aren't comfortable talking to someone close to them, encourage seeking out a third-party professional.
- Be an ally. Share this with other people and women in particular; they need to know we stand with them.
If we can do this enough, raise future generations this way, maybe we would make a 180 degree change in how society views and treats men’s mental health.
Whole wars, globally, personally and internally can be diminished if we evolve into a society that TRULY is more equal; this means needing to get men in on the mental health conversation.
What other ways do you believe would be helpful in becoming an ally for men’s mental health? Please comment below and share.