Guys, it’s OK to not be OK…It’s about time we change the idea that all men need to put on a brave front just to be considered “a man”.
We need to learn to look past the “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to categorising human behaviour. The “Stoic” stereotype just isn’t working.
Forcing yourself to change your personality just to fit social norms has been proven to elevate feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and low self-esteem. After all, we’re told to be ourselves, right? Wrong.
For far too long being a man has required a perceived identity displaying masculinity, bravery and stoicism. Instilled into many boys at a young age are concepts of masculinity in the form of remarks such as, “boys don’t cry” or “you’re acting like a girl”.
But not all men, or women for that matter, are the same (and wouldn’t the world be boring if we were!). Sure, some men ride bulls, play contact sports and drink beer with the guys. Does that make them any more of “a man” than a guy who prefers the arts, reading or being alone?
According to marketing and societal norms, it does, but we all know better so, why is this still the case? As an inclusive society, we can and must do better.
According to Beyond Blue
every day nine Australians take their own lives and seven of those are men. Every day!
Gotcha4Life mental fitness foundation founder and part of the team behind the Boys Do Cry campaign, Gus Worland says, “Trying to live up to this blokey stereotype of “She’ll be right mate”, and man up and shut up has got us to where we are today… As men, we typically spend way too much time with this mask on, making out that everything is fantastic when it’s simply not. And it’s just not working.”
Unfortunately, far too many Aussie men (and women for that matter) find it difficult to ask for help.
Trying to live up to the stereotypes of masculinity has come at a high cost with male suicide reaching epidemic levels.
A clear sign of this comes in the form of these alarming statistics:
Suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15-49, while the number of men who take their own lives each year is nearly double that of the national road toll.
Despite these numbers being so high, according to the Queensland Suicide Register in 2019 (pre-Covid 19) only 44.4 percent of men who passed away from suicide had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. It’s a sobering statistic stating that less than half of the men who suffered so terribly so as to take their own lives had sought or received adequate professional care.
Around 20 percent of men will suffer from some form of mental illness such as anxiety or depression, yet only a small amount of them will seek help.
This article by Amanda Lyons for NewsGP states that Dr. James Antoniadis, a GP and psychodynamic psychotherapist, has seen many of his male patients experience problems as a result of their efforts to fit into masculine stereotypes.
“In Australia, the cultural paradigm is of the stoic farmer who works the land and never complains, cuts his hand with a chainsaw and just wraps it up and keeps working. It’s very much a “get on with it” sort of masculine ideal,” he said.
“But the downside is that those men, in times of emotional difficulty, haven’t got the ability or even the words to think through their emotional problems.”
Dr Antoniadis believes men’s efforts to conform to such cultural ideals often leads to an inability to even recognise their feelings in the first place.
“In order to not show your emotions, it’s more effective if you can deny them, even to yourself,” he said.
“As a result, you get men who can’t speak or think about their emotions – instead, they feel unwell or that something is not right.”
This is an issue that affects every level of society and is not just the problem of the men experiencing it. Our goal as a progressive community should be to create a society where men feel safe to express emotion without being stripped of their manliness by the perceptions of a few. Encouraged to experience the full spectrum of life as a man in a safe and supported way.
We need to teach our boys right from the get-go that it’s ok to display emotions and we urgently need to reinforce this in our men. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to be vulnerable, in fact, being vulnerable is an incredible act of bravery that far outstrips silence.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
The Team here loves and highly recommends Brene Brown’s show “Call to Courage” available via Netflix!
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. Here is a short list of men’s help organisations:
1300 224 636
Men’s Line Australia
1300 789 978
1300 029 131
In case of an emergency dial 000
Author: Pete Welsh