The stigma behind men’s mental health

[TRIGGER WARNING || This post does mention suicide/self harm. If this is something that is a trigger to you, please move away from this post. Take Care. Stay safe ]

Man sitting by a lake, as if he's reflecting on life.
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

Throughout my childhood I was consistently told “boys don’t cry” or that boys were strong and tough, and only girls got upset. It’s here, in childhood, that the stigma of men or boys showing any sort of emotion that might display “weakness” is stigmatised. It creates this barrier in our heads, an emotional barrier telling us that if we display emotions like fear, or if we cry, then we are weak. Then we create this self sabotaging stigma towards our own mental health that tells us “we’re not supposed to feel this way”, as if our emotions or feelings are unnatural, because we are men.

In the long run this isn’t healthy. You bottle up emotions for too long and they’re going to have to come out sometime. Whilst I’m no doctor, it wouldn’t surprise me if this accounted for the rates in men’s anxiety and depression.

Is “Boys don’t cry” a generational thing now?

I was brought up by my Nan and Granddad until I was 10 (then he left.. still in contact) but I never saw my “dad” cry until I was 12 when his daughter (my auntie) passed away and I never saw him cry again until his sister passed away a few years back which did hit him quite hard. But even through the deaths of his mother and his two other sisters he remained emotionless – to us anyway.

I don’t blame my “dad” for bringing me up this way, or giving me the view that men have to be emotionally strong, it was what he was taught, and in the 90’s things were obviously a little bit different. But it did have an impact.

For years I’d bottle my emotions up, and brush them off because I didn’t want to be seen as weak or sensitive. Then when my depression hit in my late teens/early twenties, the only way I managed to get out of it was to actually feel what I was feeling. I realise I made that sound easy but it took me years of work and getting over multiple suicide attempts to actually make it back onto the right path.

My first attempt at 18 sent me spiralling down a path I don’t want to re-visit. My second attempt was only a few days later and whilst I knew I needed help, I didn’t how to get help and was worried how I’d be seen by other people. It took years of work, ups and downs. Years of self hatred, and self reflection just to dig myself out of that depressive hole.

pinnable image, same as title image but with text overlayed "The Stigma Behind Men's Mental Health"

Now self reflection is part of my daily life.

Emotions don’t scare me, I’m not afraid to show my emotions anymore. If I need to cry, I’ll cry – sometimes I even encourage it when I’m feeling a bit blocked – those military homecoming videos get me every time… or Billy Elliot. My mental health is no longer stigmatised by myself.

I used to be trapped in this emotional cycle, of bottling it all up, then unexpectedly releasing it all at once. I was an emotional ticking time bomb. At any moment I’d be hit with every emotion under the sun and it wasn’t a pretty sight. These days, with a lot of self reflection I deal with them as I feel them. If I’m sad I figure out why I’m sad, and I do the same with every other emotion. If I can understand why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, then I can do something to help myself.

During this lockdown I’ve found my anxiety creeping back in, and I get it, I’m trapped in a house, I can’t continue with my normal routine as I usually would and Miss Rona’s been a bit of a bitch, so it’s only natural that I’d be feeling anxious about going to places with loads of people, or going back to work e.t.c.

The future

What I want to see now is boys being brought up, being told it’s okay to feel what they feel. I find it more emotionally empowering being able to show my emotions and be okay with that, than bottling them up. That doesn’t mean I walk down the street crying my eyes out, or that I’m anymore sensitive than anyone else, but I now have the ability to actually control my emotions, and use them constructively rather than having no control whatsoever.

There shouldn’t be this stigma behind men’s mental health, it’s degrading and can be dangerous – there’s a reason that men’s suicide rates have been higher for the last 30 years. I honestly believe if we get rid of this notion that men shouldn’t feel anything, that rate could potentially drop. [they currently take up 3 quarters of all suicides in the UK and have done since the 1990’s]

Take care, stay safe.

James. aka Anothermaleblogger.

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This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. adamjnew85

    I can relate to this. I bottled everything up for so long, and it very nearly broke me. Thankfully I talked with my parter and sought out help, and things are better.

    Men’s mental health is getting more recognition finally, but there’s still work to do. Great post.

    Adam –

    1. Definitely still a way to go. Glad you managed to get some help and felt comfortable talking to your partner too!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment

  2. Brendan Birth

    This is an important issue to bring up. I’ve seen the same stigmas you have, and have had to unteach some of that myself (and use my blog as a platform to also unteach some of that in others hopefully).

  3. Jantien

    Glad you’re still with us. Hope you found people you can trust and confide in. 🙂

    I’m doing my best to raise my son with openness and honesty and that it’s okay for him to show his emotions, but I know for a fact that it’s different at his grandparents’ house for example, who literally say “no crying in my house now!” or bribe him with sweets or whatever to make him do what they want. It’s toxic, but it’s the culture they were raised in and every time I speak up I get in a fight with them again. But at home he’s safe with us, as are his feelings.

    1. We’re living in an age now were we recognise how important feeling is – the stereotype of a “strong” man has changed now that women are seen and heard as being just as strong too (which is absolutely brilliant in my eyes) . Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  4. Jess

    So glad you’re bringing awareness to this! Unfortunately men have to be tough and are taught to be little men from childhood and it sticks. I never understood why we do this and yet become upset later when men do not express themselves

    1. I’ve seen it be a double edge sword – people want me to be more emotive, then when they are – all of a sudden they’re weak or need to get over it. I think this generation and the next will make strides with emotional development. It’s not about showing it all the time but accepting that men have emotion too and every right to display it how they see fit – thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it x

  5. Unwanted Life

    It’s stupid how society wanted men to hide their feelings until it literally kills them. It’s still a struggle to get men to open up now, but I have a few male friends who have no issue talking to me about their problems, I guess because I’ve always been open and raw about mine. Great post

  6. clarissa

    Thank you for speaking up!! Mental health is so important. I think you brought up a great point regarding the stigma towards men’s mental health and how genders are perceived a certain way and we need to break that- like now. I’ve felt similar dark feelings myself and I’ve learnt how great gratitude and self-reflection can be and to just be kinder to ourselves.

    Miss Rona needs to leave too – she’s been a real bitch these couple of months haha

  7. This was so interesting. I’ve always been an advocate for mental health and especially men’s mental health.

    Thank you for being so open and honest x

  8. Lisa Hall

    Thank you for sharing your story. As the mother of a son who has mental conditions including, Tourette’s Syndrome, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD and who has also attempted suicide more than once, I can say that this article was an eye opener for me. I am sorry that you weren’t able to find help when you were younger but I’m very glad that you were able to survive your attempts on your life so that you could help others.

  9. bournemouthgirl

    Such an important topic to share and use your platform to voice! I don’t think men’s mental health isn’t talked about as much!

  10. Beth

    Couldn’t agree more. Men have emotions too and I have never understood why society has led us to believe that we need to tell someone to “man up” as soon as he starts opening up. I think it’s important we encourage those around us to be open with how they are feeling as, I know all too well, it can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. I can only hope anyone reading this feels able to open up about how they’re feeling, as well as encouraging those around them to do the same

  11. Great post! You’ve come such a long way and have a bright future ahead of you!

  12. Agree! Powerful and insightful article. One of the biggest problem in our current society reside in the fact that men have a very hard time talking about their feelings creating a whole lot of issues for themselves and the people around them. This statement seems overgeneralized, unfair, and a tad offensive; but it is actually backed up by a lot of studies. My eldest daughter Maya put her blogger’s hat on and wrote an article dealing with this important societal issue. I was very impressed with the way Maya tackled this sensitive issue: I am bias of course because she is my daughter after all, but judge for yourself. I guarantee you it will be time well spent

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