Men and Mental Health
What do we teach men? And what should we expect from that?
Boys are given plenty of advice from birth designed to guide them into being men.
Rub dirt on it. Walk it off. No crying.
We’re handed this assignment of being emotionally bulletproof. Free of tears, doubts and insecurities. Men don’t flinch, we’re told. Men take it.
Don’t meet that standard or toe this imaginary line? You are weak. Not a real man. You’re a crybaby, a sissy, a punk.
The problem with that? Men aren’t born a better version of anything. We’re just people.
The Weakness Game
When you raise a person telling them that they have to be a certain way it shoves them into a box and puts pressure on them to be that way. They put pressure on themself when they aren’t behaving according to that standard.
It also creates tension if they want to be different than that taught design without other options.
Nowhere in there does it teach what to do if you are feeling pressure from your life. Anger that doesn’t go away, lack of trust in others keeping you on edge or severe anxiety that brings physical symptoms with it.
It’s not an agile take on quality of life, more a rigid one. A pose to be held through everything.
The body is designed to feel pain. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Denying pain is what’s not natural.
The Old Standard
A real man solves his problems on his own with his dirty, calloused hands. They have access to tools that can handle any job. If a real man runs across someone that doesn’t like his realness then it’s that persons problem. They don’t get it. They’re the stupid weak ones.
It’s tiring work always having to be on and strong so often. And it can wear you down.
A Man’s Place
Ideas like that may not be as pronounced in society as they once were, the digital age is slowly, slowly, moving things towards a democratization of ideas allowing for equally valid ways to be.
Our role models aren’t all bitter wage earners these days (apologies to Kramden, Bundy and Bunker). Pro athletes still make plenty of mistakes but there are more than enough volunteering time to charities and outreach programs. There’s no limit to what a person can be regardless of chromosomes or physical characteristics and that’s more on display than it’s ever been.
Society has been carved up neatly for thousands of years. Men over here, women over there with little room to cross over. As the old divide blurs and life gets more interesting that can also raise issues. Some people don’t know how to work without the crutch of the way things were and may benefit from help in adjusting.
The world isn’t wiped clean of the old ideas.
Boys Don’t Cry
There’s still that holdover from the olden days that does not happily allow for men to admit issues with mental health or ask for help in general.
Hard to say why. We use the same squash courts, turn the same knobs on a propane tank and punch the same clocks. But mention feelings out loud, say you’re thinking about seeing a therapist, expect honest empathy and people look at you like a coward traitor of the Spartan ideal.
There just is not much discussion about options for when your quality of life goes down due to poor mental health.
You get stuck in a frail body, lined with nerve endings and everyone wants to look at you funny for feeling something.
Mental health is still one of the most stigmatized concepts currently going in health and wellness. Some don’t believe in it. Others are convinced they can think their way through troubles that complicate brain chemistry.
People see mental health as some gray box that leads to a pill prescription or a lonely suicide when it can be the difference between a life you enjoy or an existence you maintain.
Life is not an endurance test.
Thinking that you are weak for needing help with these is like thinking the body is weak when it gets the cold or a flu. What you feel isn’t a giving in. Those are symptoms of a fight and reports from the front.
Taking care of your mental health is key to enjoying life and it goes a long way towards not taking things out on others. War is a constant in the world. So are widows, orphans and returning soldiers. A lot of our warriors are coming back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not because they were bad soldiers or failures. It’s because they took mind and body to their limits.
If our toughest can see the importance of their mental health and brave talking about, anyone can.
Come back next week for more health and fitness.