There is so much stigma surrounding men’s mental health and whether it’s okay for men to talk about their feelings. The idea that men can’t or shouldn’t freely express their emotions is a harmful side effect of toxic masculinity. Men’s mental health should be seen normal and healthy topic to talk about.
There is a focus on men’s mental health because statistics show this is a growing problem in society. Men typically have the lowest rates of seeking help for their mental health (1). Across the world, a man dies by suicide every minute of every day (2). Also, men within the LGBTIA+ community are at higher risk of mental health issues and are at higher risk of suicide (3).
As you may have men in your life that you want to check in on, here are 10 ways you can be supportive of the mental health of the men in your life:
- Say goodbye to toxic masculinity
Make sure you aren’t perpetuating harmful ideas about how men should (or shouldn’t) express their emotions. This could be using phrases like “man up” or “boys don’t cry”. Call out people that use these phrases or ones of a similar nature.
No kind of emotional expression should be limited by femininity or masculinity. These social constructs can influence one’s mental health. Toxic masculinity promotes behaviours like dominance, self-reliance and limiting emotional range to only anger. This isn’t healthy so we want our children (and our men) to understand that it’s okay to express your emotions. We want to encourage them to talk, particularly so they know to reach out when they aren’t okay.
2. Take note of whether they are taking care of their physical health
Does it look like they are they are sleeping? Eating? Washing? Things like this can be a sign that their mental health may not be okay. They may not be open for a conversation about their mental state but try and see if you can do something to improve their physical health.
Maybe suggest going for a walk. If it’s a sunny day, sunlight can actually increase levels of the hormone serotonin, which boosts one’s mood and can make you feel calmer and more focused. You could ask them out for a meal at their favourite food place. Getting out of the house and being social can help them notice whether they are taking care of their hygiene and make them feel more socially connected (and some good food can’t hurt).
3. Be patient
Talking about your mental health can be difficult, particularly if this is not something you do often, or feel comfortable about. Encourage them to talk, but only when they are ready. It is important for them to know that someone is ready and willing to listen to them.
Respect boundaries. Don’t push. You don’t want them to feel pressure to move past something. Opening up is a choice one has to make, so have patience for when that person is ready to talk.
4. Create a safe space for these conversations
Make sure they feel safe and comfortable talking to you. They might not want someone else there, so make sure you are somewhere private and can’t be overheard. Remind them that there is no judgement, you just want to support them through whatever is going on.
Let them know that you don’t have to be the person they talk to. They can talk to anyone one they trust, but you just want them to talk to someone about what is going on. They should know you won’t repeat them to anyone else, unless it’s a crisis situation and you are worried for their life. In that case you would contact a professional i.e. a suicide hotline and you would tell the person that you would be doing so.
5. There can be more than one conversation
It also doesn’t have to happen in one go. They can talk about the most pressing issue in their lives at the moment, the one that is causing them the most distress. You can talk about other issues later, it doesn’t have to be one big, intense and draining conversation. They can talk about certain things as and when they feel comfortable.
Ensure that you reiterate all these things even if you think they should just know. Repetition increases memorability, believability, and trust. But of course, you must also ensure that your actions echo the words.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!