By Armita Rohani
Before I dive deep into this very controversial issue, I would like to clarify that this is not undermining women’s mental health, nor arguing that one gender’s mental health should be more valued than the other. This article is solely to create an awareness of such an issue, and to give it the desperate attention that it needs. This is not about denouncing feminism or arguing that society should strictly care about men. The purpose of this publication is to bring awareness to the importance of men’s mental health. Examples listed are generalized; there are women who are not getting the help they need as well, but more women are than men. Trigger warning: this commentary includes the mention of self-harm, suicide, depression, sexual harassment and assault.
One man commits suicide every minute. That means 60 men each hour, 1440 each day, 10,080 each week, 40,320 every month, and 525,600 men annually. While women are twice as likely to develop depression, men are four to five times more likely to kill themselves because of it. Male deaths make up 79% of all suicides, and it’s the 8th leading cause of death in men globally. This is in stark contrast to how one woman commits suicide every 55.4 minutes. Suicide is not as rare as we think it may be. Dozens of people are affected, and many more are traumatized from it. 1 in 7 men self-harm; that means more than 23.21 million in the United States, and over 1 billion globally. Nearly 1 in 10 men suffer from depression or anxiety, but less than half of them seek treatment. 49% of all men feel more depressed than what they admit to. Half of our male population does not speak up about their pain, nor do they seek help for it. 1 in 6 men have faced some form of sexual harassment or abuse in their life, making up 16.7% of the world’s population.
People have been preaching for equality throughout history; when anything seemed unfair, we took action against it. However, when it comes to men’s mental health, it is only suppressed under gender expectations and society’s excuses on simply not wanting to deal with such a matter. Feminism has somehow established that women are “better” than men, when the sole purpose for it was to create a world where men and women are equal. It relied on downgrading men, so that they could get ahead in this “gender war.” This is why a man’s problems are not taken seriously enough—it is because we force the spotlight to be on a woman. When a woman is going through a hard time, society clings to her, shows her love and support, and begs her to fight for her life. Yet when a man is going through the same situation, he is simply told to “deal with his emotions,” and that it isn’t “manly” enough for him to feel this way; that he is supposed to be strong enough to be silent about his problems. We are shaming men for talking about their mental health, laughing at them, judging them, doing everything we possibly can except helping them. The pain that men face are brutally undermined, and for generations we have simply overlooked it.
Stigma and the stereotypical expectations we have set for men should largely be held responsible. Stigma is a set of unfair or negative beliefs that a group of people have about a certain topic. It can be present socially, culturally and through self imposement. Phrases that float around from stigma, such as “men don’t cry,” stimulate that men are not permitted to express sadness, grief or pain, or else they will reveal a hidden “weakness” that will make them an imposter to their gender. It is furthermore implied when men repeat those phrases to themselves, and accept the barbarous ideas that society has implemented on them. This only further deepens their self belief on keeping their griefs and issues to themselves, which facilitate even more to come. Not only does this affect our male population, but also the behavior of our society. Toxic behaviors like these will seep through to other matters and only hurt more people. Generations will be raised to believe and spread unfair opinions on the importance of mental health to others; in today’s time full of social media and easy communication towards millions of people, it will spread like wildfire. Moralities of a variety of subjects will be questioned, people will be divided, and further chaos will ensue if any of this occurs. Yet somehow, we all know this from childhood. The “domino effect” of hiding our problems only makes them worse.
Who gave us the right to determine what should be more prioritized in society? Our selfish decisions are at the expense of lies and no one cares. A whole month is dedicated to men’s mental health, yet no one speaks about it. If it was the other way around, the feminists and LGBTQ supporters would have rushed to the streets to raise awareness, yet no one rallied with the men to show their support. What have our men done to deserve this immense underrepresentation? Woman or man, no one should have to go through hell alone, yet we are constantly pushing the latter farther down to rot in their own self-misery while we frolic in the joys of life. We can’t pretend this sexist problem that has created harm and neglect doesn’t exist. We as humans have gotten ridiculously good at hiding away the injustices and dangers that we face so that we can deal with them another time, or leave it to the next generation to figure out. In addition, we can not pass this deadly stigma to even more men. Our laziness and inability to act against moral injustices is killing our population, and dividing our societies. The meaning of human life is simply lost amidst the havoc of people being too selfish to care or notice. Certain groups are unfairly given the advantage of attention, while others are left to fend for themselves.
Men are important too, as they make up a large percentage of our lives; it is only just if we actually show our care for them. Words are meaningless without the actions that support them; we can not just say that “we care” without doing something to show it.