The strong, silent type is something that men are taught to be from a young age. As little boys, we’re told, ‘boys don’t cry’ and to ‘man up,’ if we are hurt or impacted by something done to us. This leads to bottling up our emotions until we reach the point of no return. In a post #MeToo era, we all learned what is toxic masculinity is thanks to countless articles written about the topic. In popular culture in the United States, the idea of the Alpha Male still persists even though it’s been proven totally wrong by social and natural scientists alike. Men are taught that they must be leaders and successful to get the house, the girl, and the lifestyle. And to do that, as men, we must dominate and bully others into getting ahead. Bottling up our emotions and being silent even when we are struggling has done a real disservice to men. In other words, Man Up is the wrong advice to give to a man who’s struggling with mental health issues.
This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.
This type of mindset hinders men in the worse kind of way. When men face a challenge or struggle in life, especially regarding their mental health, we are just told to suck it up. We don’t ask for help on average as much as our female counterparts. It’s okay to ask for help when in need, fellas. The purpose of The Evolving Man Project is to redefine manhood. Manhood can be whatever we want it to be. I spoke about this before:
In the end, manhood and manliness can be a plethora of things. Masculinity can manifest in a diverse amount of ways. The beautiful thing is that we can make manhood mean anything we want because there are various men in the world. There are all types of men: black, white, old, young, tall, short, some men have muscles, some are intellectuals, some are Christians, Muslims, atheists, some men are gay, trans, or straight. We can be soldiers, teachers, runway models, social workers, plumbers, or nurses.
On Being a Man
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s okay to be a man and be vulnerable at times. I discussed my own struggles growing up in foster care during the 1980 and 90s in Chicago. Dealing with PTSD and finally coming to terms with my own mental help post-military service days. As a licensed social worker, I can attest that if you’re a man struggling, you will not be seen as weak if you seek out help. Luckily attitudes towards mental health counseling, psychiatric drugs, and mindfulness have been changing for the better over the years. We have a long way to go. Still, far too many men suffer in silence. I know this from personal experience. If you are struggling, there are some valuable strategies to pick up to deal with stress.
- Exercise – Running, walking, swimming, etc. A healthy body is a path to a healthy mind.
- Get Outdoors – Yes, walk outside, go to the park, or a hike. Hell, go white water rafting.
- Unplug – Stop the doom scrolling on Twitter, log-off Facebook, or Meta (whatever Zuckerberg is calling it these days), stop checking those work emails after hours.
- Connect with friends and family – Do so if you can safely in person and not put people at risk. Or just give a friend or family member a call.
- Hobbies – Do something that isn’t a ‘side hustle’ but something that brings you pleasure and joy.
- Take time to yourself – Me time is important. I like to go on solo hikes with my dog. He doesn’t chat much except for barking at squirrels. Bad doggie!
It is important for the fellas reading this to seek professional help if you’re suffering from clinical depression, insomnia, anxiety, or harmful or suicidal thoughts and/or engaging in reckless behavior for a month or longer. Talk therapy is one of the best options for individuals dealing with depression. For those who lack quality access to health care, look for free clinics, sliding scale therapeutic services, and mental health hotlines in your area. Professionals there will be able to assist with your path to recovery. It’s also why I am a staunch advocate of universal healthcare in the United States.
Cost can hinder people from getting the help they need if their life is spiraling out of control. Many people don’t think they can afford a mental health professional’s services. We must continue the fight for universal healthcare because mental health is just as important as physical well-being. It’s hard to have one without the other. So to the men out there going through changes. I hope my words can find you where ever you are. I know your struggle. Hell, I manage my mental health every day in a world that seems to be getting only more unstable. Remember, “You are not alone.”