The Stigma Surrounding Men’s Mental Health

Why do some men feel uncomfortable sharing their emotions?

The+boys+cross+country+team+comes+together+in+a+huddle+before+taking+off+at+their+meet+in+Creston.+Freshman+Mason+McFadden+and+senior+Lex+Somers+both+participate+in+cross+country.

Molly McFadden

The boys cross country team comes together in a huddle before taking off at their meet in Creston. Freshman Mason McFadden and senior Lex Somers both participate in cross country.

Molly McFadden, Editor

“Suck it up.”

“Walk it off.” 

“Toughen up.”

Freshman Mason McFadden said he often heard these directives from peers and coaches while growing up. “A lot of people won’t listen because they don’t believe you. There’s sort of a stereotype that men need to hide their emotions.” 

Although 87 percent of Americans believe having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, many people “see mental health struggles as a personal issue and a lack of personal fortitude,” according to Healthline.com. Men are less likely to report symptoms of depression, even while males died by suicide at a rate three to four times as often as women.

According to Mental Health America, six million men suffer from depression each year. “Male depression often goes undiagnosed. Men are more likely to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness,” the MHA reports.

Senior Lex Somers said, “When I am struggling with something related to my mental health, I would say I’d rather be given time to diagnose the situation and develop a plan to fix it myself before anyone else tries to intervene.” 

When I am struggling with something related to my mental health, I would say I’d rather be given time to diagnose the situation and develop a plan to fix it myself before anyone else tries to intervene.”

— Lex Somers

Somers said that although he can try to pinpoint why he’s struggling and brainstorm solutions alone, problems cannot always be solved without help. “The reason that there is this ‘stigma’ surrounding men’s mental health is because of the initial preferences of men to diagnose issues by themselves.” Somers said this, combined with the assumption that men would then also rather fix the issue themself, has been caused by a “lack of ability to communicate our thought process and preferences.”

Psychology Today said, “Alexithymia is the clinical-sounding term for when someone has a lot of difficulty translating their emotional experience into words. Normative male alexithymia refers to the fact that traditional masculine role socialization has channeled many men into ways of being such that their masculine identity conflicts with many emotions they feel and what they feel they are ‘allowed’ to express (i.e., they will be shamed and will feel as if they are ‘not real men’ if they express feelings of vulnerability, dependency needs, weakness, etc.).”

McFadden and Somers both said that they have people they feel comfortable talking to when they are struggling. “I know that if I go to them and rant that they will be understanding and show me grace. They’ll listen, give me encouragement, and remind me of the bigger picture,” Somers said. Although both have people to talk to, they often choose not to let it out.

Someone just has to be willing to be vulnerable and show a man, and women who struggle with the same issue, that by being vulnerable you won’t get exiled or be thought of as weak.”

— Lex Somers

According to Healthline, “A lot of men fall prey to the false idea that they should be ‘tough enough’ to fix all their problems on their own. They worry that by showing vulnerability, even in the case of physical illness, they may lose their authority with others.”

“Someone just has to be willing to be vulnerable and show a man, and women who struggle with the same issue, that by being vulnerable you won’t get exiled or be thought of as weak. By doing so, you are planting a seed in that person, that will be watered by every other person who does the same. Eventually, that seed will grow into a tree and that tree will bear fruit of the same kind,” Somers said.