It’s a Man’s World: Gender Roles in Society and Men’s Mental Health

There’s a stigma with men’s mental health that has been perpetuated for decades, and it needs to change. The World Health Organization reported in 2018 that men die by suicide three times more than women. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, the violent nature of men’s attempts makes their attempts more final because help cannot arrive and intervene soon enough. It’s important for men to know their gender role in society doesn’t prevent them from seeking mental health treatment before it comes to a crisis point. And to change that, we all need to change how we think.
Let’s explore how the gender role of the traditional male discourages men from seeking or being recommended for mental health treatment.

Traditional Gender Roles for Men

Back to the beginnings of humankind, men and women were primarily given different roles. Men were the hunters while women were the gatherers. As time passed, this morphed into men being in a position of power and viewed as the smarter or more competent sex. It also led to men being expected by society to bottle up their emotions and caused the assumption that men who seek assistance with mental health issues like depression, addictions, and anxiety are weak. This ages-old mental health stigma is most likely why men avoid seeking out help or admitting something is wrong.
On top of that, traditional ‘manly’ activities like playing sports, hunting, fishing, or watching sporting events on TV don’t lead to the opportunity for men to talk about any concerns or issues they may be having. Whereas traditional female group activities tend to incorporate time to talk with friends.

Changing Gender Assumptions

There have been a lot of changes with gender assumptions over the past several decades, including what it means to be a man or a woman. A recent study compared responses to gendered characteristics from 1946 to 2018 and found that men are no longer viewed as the smarter sex. In 1946, 65 percent of all respondents believed that men were the smarter sex. By 2018, that response shrank to 5 percent, with 86 percent of respondents stating both sexes are equally intelligent.
That same survey also reported that women are still viewed as more compassionate and affectionate while men are considered more likely to stay calm in an emergency and think rationally. This reveals that, while the women’s movement has made considerable strides in proving women can do the same jobs and perform at the same standards as men, society has done little to dispel the notion that men should be silent about their emotions and mental health struggles. This needs to change.

A New View of Masculinity Requires Change

Study after study shows that women are more likely to seek treatment for depression and men are more likely to self-medicate. Experts report toxic masculinity culture is probably why men are underreporting symptoms of depression. In addition, depression in men can often come out as aggression, anger, and irritability, leading to a missed diagnosis from physicians.

While hiding emotions may have started as a way to prevent unnecessary aggression, not dealing with those emotions can be worse for the individual. Starting when males are young and teaching boys how to deal with their emotions in a positive way is a great place to start. From there, we need to spread the messages that:

  1. It’s ok to seek help from a mental health professional.
  2. Seeking help for mental health concerns is a show of strength.
  3. Sometimes mental health concerns stem from physical problems like hormone imbalances.
Let’s leave you with a parting thought. “Men who have more rigid views of what it means to be men are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, more likely to be depressed, less likely to report they’re happy with life overall, less likely to take care of their health…” – Barker, Time Magazine.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or addictions, please reach out for help. Practices like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you learn to cope with these emotions and help you feel more contentment. Schedule an appointment with one of our experienced clinicians today.

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Core Recovery is a Professionally Certified Mental Health Practice in North Phoenix.