With a focus on men’s health this week, our hope is to inspire the right conversations amongst both men and women. While society focuses on the "upper hand" that men have in many aspects, the narrative is very different in the health field. Simply put, the health stigma is even more apparent when it comes to men and boys, and while some claim that biological factors come into play, there are societal and cultural factors that can very well be within our control.
For several decades, studies have shown that men of all ages and backgrounds are less likely to seek help for various problems, ranging from stressful life events and experiences, to depression and substance abuse (although they experience these problems at the same, or greater rate, as women).
Though seeking help is a personal choice, it is important to address the stigmas that may influence that choice; stigmas that are embedded within us beyond recognition. In a nutshell, the ideal man in society is self-sufficient, tough, and unemotional; qualities that are not very compatible with seeking help. From a young age, men are taught that they don’t need help, because they are the help...
From a young age, men are taught to be tough and unfeeling, which comes with a huge amount of pressure to hide the feminine energy that naturally exist balanced within them. It is this very same pressure that enables aggression as a measure of manhood. It is this very same pressure that leaves no room for genuine, human struggle. It is this very same pressure that overpowers their internal alarms of pain and distress.
Though this information is not necessarily new, it calls for us to assess the role we have to play and to understand the impact of our actions, or lack thereof. The aim here is not to draw yet another comparison between the genders, but rather to understand the extent of the consequences and to shed light on the ways in which we can move towards better change.
So, what can be done?
Normalise the struggle
For starters, we need to continue to normalizing the struggle. You may have been raised with the expectation of keeping it together, but there are times when all of us could use some help, in whatever shape or form that may be. You don’t need to keep doing it for the sake of doing it, and you don’t need to reach your breaking point before you realize that you need to seek support. Get to know your queues. Know that the things you struggle with and the things you need help with are normal and they are worth your attention.
Seek support from someone you trust
Traditional therapy doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. If it doesn’t work for you, find what does work and do it on your terms. You can try out a session online or find someone that you trust—someone you can count on to be honest with you and not just someone who will tell you what you want to hear. Share as much or as little as you want, so long as you make the effort to find your safe space. It’s a step forward, and you can go at your own pace.
Resist the temptation to do more in order to be more
Burnout has become so common in today’s workplace that it’s almost expected that your health will pay the price at some point. What’s worse is, if you work in a highly stressful environment, taking a step back might sound like a privilege that you don’t have. Before you know it, you’ve fallen into the trap of doing more in order to be more. If you’ve been there, you probably know how that ends. You probably know how important it is to take a step back. If you can’t take a step back, try to at least take some time out of your day. As someone once said, no one on his deathbed ever said, "I wish I had spent more time in the office."
Get to know your emotions
Give yourself the time to feel and get to know what it is that you are feeling. Try to write it down. Try to describe it. Sometimes, it’s necessary to sit with the feeling in order to acknowledge it. Only then can you figure out what the underlying cause may be. Only then can you decide what the best course of action is for you.
Lastly, keep having the right conversations with yourself. You deserve to see your worth outside of what society deems to be worthwhile, this week and every other week.