Men’s Mental Health: Through the Lens of Culture
There are some incidents like the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput, that remind us that men have mental health issues as well. There are many demands that one places on the men of the world. They are expected to be “well-built” and be “clear-headed” and “men of culture”. There are also statements like “Men do not cry”, “Men do not hurt”, “Only losers cannot woo a girl of their choice” that shame men and force them to uphold these standards.
With a lack of space to express, the only acceptable emotion is anger. While anger is considered the “guardian of emotions”, it can be harmful when it is displaced onto others or inward. It can morph emotions like sadness, guilt, and regret into an unbridled rage.
We hear stories of men hurting other people including children and/or their loved ones. We hear these stories and condemn these men, but we fail to acknowledge that systems like patriarchy and hegemony will continue to produce more such men who are trapped and feel like they cannot escape unless they use their rage.
Last year, I had conducted a session on this very topic and many men shared that they do not know how to express themselves even if they had the space to. There also seems to be a fear that he will be mocked for expressing. To navigate through the challenges of life can be quite difficult without having the right tools. To bring these concerns to the forefront, we need men to speak up and find ways to heal.
Some ways in which we can begin expressing and taking care of ourselves are as follows:
- Check in with yourself for signs of stress or anxiety. This can be thoughts or emotions or even in the form of body aches or unpleasant sensations like heavy breathing, shivering, nausea, etc.
- Engage in self-care. Self-care is one of the most underrated yet most useful ways to combat stress. Take time out to walk, journal, or meditate
- Build a support system. Having a good set of friends and family who do not mock you and listen well can be helpful.
- Seek psychotherapy. Consulting a psychologist can be helpful as it gives you a safe space to express yourself. Therapy also helps you identify achievable goals and work towards them steadily.
Today, we see many men changing and embracing their emotions. Many men are seeking therapy and are engaging in non-traditional roles like housekeeping and being active parents. We have a section of fathers in our country who are involved in parenting full-time. They are in charge of responsibilities like nurturing and caregiving that was traditionally expected from women. Having men involve themselves in such processes shows that one can define what masculinity means for oneself and does not have to stick to a template. Studies have shown that these homes are happier as well as both parents are equally engaged.
Masculinity and femininity are societal constructs. While it may be hard to break away from this paradigm, it can be more beneficial to choose what is best for you. It can be helpful to recreate these templates for yourself based on your needs, wants, and personality.
Author: Srinithi Sridhar is a Counselling Psychologist. Her areas of interest includes exploring how sociocultural constructs impact ment’s mental helath and has conducted research on Stay-at-home fathers for her Masters dissertation.