“Man Up.” What does that even mean nowadays? Bite your tongue, bottle it up, stand tall, move on. So men can’t cry? They can’t be in touch with their emotions? Or speak up when they are? Only women can? I thought the days of gender stereotyping were a thing of the past?
If I asked you what does it take to be a ‘real’ man, what would you say? Society has taught boys from a young age for centuries that men should be the breadwinner, act tough, go to work, earn more money, not cry. What about women? To stay in the kitchen, care for the young ones, cry whenever they want too.
Yes, in 2018 we can come a long way in regards to gender stereotypes, particularly for women. Although, when I speak to males in various capacities I find they still have difficulty in talking about their emotions.
It got me wondering, is the societal ideal to “man up” damaging health?
CALM the Campaign Against Living Miserably is leading a movement against male suicide. They report that 84% of males do not open up about their feelings. Their audit highlighted how men manage their emotional health and well-being differently to women. Men are less likely than women to open up about how they feel, they’re more likely to display risk-taking behaviours and can feel more frustrated at challenges in life. This is particularly concerning when UK-wide statistics show that suicide is the single biggest cause of death in Males under 45 years. Men are also three times more likely than their opposing gender to take their own life.
Could this be prevented?
It is argued that the lack of “language” for men to talk about their emotions has resulted in doctors failing to spot signs for poor mental health. Psychotherapist Damien Ridge says the system is “not so good at picking up the issues that men experience”. “Women have a whole history of talking about stuff with their girlfriends, family and so on. They open up and talk. There’s a language to talk about their distress”. He continues “Whereas men, [don’t] even have a language. They’ve got no training in doing that, who do they talk to? They have to develop a language. The whole system is orientated towards treating women rather than men.”.
This theory focuses on how language can influence men accessing support. “man up” “grow a pair” These statements aren’t encouraging men to open up conversations about how they’re feeling.
What could be done instead?
1. Talk. Sounds easy enough right? For some people (not just men either), this can come with some great difficulty. This doesn’t need to be a sit down, formal process if you don’t want it to be. You may feel more comfortable developing the conversation naturally for example when you’re in the middle of an activity together. It can also be hard to find the word to explain how you feel, use multiple words instead. Being listened to can help in feeling supported.
2. Reduce the stigma. End the “man up” mantra and encourage men to talk about how they feel. Man to man. Man to woman. It doesn’t really matter which. Stop in using language which damages men’s thoughts at having emotions which ‘lessen their masculinity’. Ask how someone maybe feeling instead.
3. Access professional support. CALM offer support to men 5pm-midnight daily through their helpline & web chat service. They also provide information if you’re worried about someone else. Support can also be accessed by visiting your GP or accessing support from mental health services which aren’t gender specific.
“Man up”. “Man Talk”.