“Boys don’t cry”, “Man Up, Be strong” is all that Aakash heard while growing up. With good intentions near and dear ones enforced a belief in him that showing one’s emotions is a sign of weakness. I am sure we all have heard these phrases being said rampantly to our young boys. In the society we live in, the prevailing patriarchal mindset celebrates aggression, extreme competitiveness, dominance, power and control as some of the must-needed attributes in our men. On the other hand, kindness, sympathy, nurturance is looked upon as feminine attributes which are considered subordinate along with emotions of sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety etc. Thus to conform to social norms men bottle up emotions which affect their mental well being.
It is evident that men suffer from mental health issues which at times amount to a mental disorder. It is observed that men with signs of depression will show easy irritability, aggressive behaviours, loss of interest in activities previously found pleasurable, somatic complaints such as aches and pains. They may not always display sadness as a state of low mood or crying behaviour, thus many a times depression in men is misdiagnosed or thought of as an acceptable personality factor as opposed to a clinical diagnosis requiring immediate attention.
How Mental Well-being can be restored?
Most men tend to have thoughts such as “I HAVE TO fulfil ALL desires of my family”, “I MUST earn well”, “The ENTIRE responsibility of my family is upon me”, ” I HAVE TO protect my family from ALL the odds, ALL the time”. These well-intentioned thoughts if analyzed closely have thinking errors in them. The frequent use of “shoulds” and “Musts” are self-sabotaging and may lead to anxiety or depression if these demands on self are not met. Thus it is helpful when demands are seen as preferences, the emotional reactivity is reduced and it is easier to view the situation rationally.
Feel, don’t Flee!
Usually, men seem comfortable in showing only those emotions that go in line with their socially assigned gender role however suppressing emotions such as grief, sadness, loneliness, embarrassment etc. can have serious consequences. These unwelcomed emotions are suppressed by various unhealthy behaviours such as addictively and purposelessly erupt when there is a trigger, maybe in uglier ways. Since one has not handled them earlier, they are equally unprepared to handle these emotions once again. Thus, a vicious cycle is formed. Few ways in which we can release our suppressed emotions are through Art, diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, journaling and most importantly accepting and acknowledging that all emotions, positive or negative, make us uniquely human.
June, being Mental Health Awareness Month for Men, Let’s start conversations to normalize the Mental health concerns of Men. Let’s rethink Men’s Mental Health. Let’s help them come out of patriarchal mindsets and promote emotional growth.
Sanika Gupte has done Masters in Clinical Psychology and has been as a Mental Health Professional for the last 5 years. She believes psychology is an integral part in all the areas of life and her interest lies in helping others identify and create awareness about how each of our behaviours rational or irrational are a makeup of our psychology.
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