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Redefining Masculinity in Men of All Ages

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — June 25, 2020 — 4 min read
Most men have been told all their lives to “man up” and hold everything together. This pressure to show strength and hide tears makes it harder for men to live longer and healthier lives.

During Men’s Health Month, celebrated in June, let’s take a moment to talk about the importance of men’s and boys’ well-being, and the barriers they face in addressing their mental and physical health needs.

Stereotypes and Mental Health

While everyone has different ideas of what it means to be a man, expressions like “big boys don’t cry” or “boys will be boys” are widely used across cultures. These common expressions teach men from a very young age to act in a “masculine” way and avoid showing emotions or talking about their feelings. They might equate this behavior to being strong and resilient. 

However, these stereotypes influence boys’ and men’s mental health. This can be especially hard when they go through challenging times, or when they don’t fit into these norms.

Research shows that traditional ideas of masculinity and competitiveness and dominance could:
  • Encourage unhealthy behaviors to cope with negative emotions, like substance use or violence
  • Prevent them from seeking professional help when feeling unwell
  • Discourage them from participating in social networks that might help them get through a difficult time
  • Pressure them to be the providers and protectors
  • Prevent them from speaking up when they feel depressed or anxious

The Silent Health Crisis

It is easier for men to “tough it out” alone than to ask for help when they need it. They might be afraid to be seen as weak or “less of a man.” As identified by the Men’s Health Network, men are:

Supporting the Men in Our Lives

To start the conversation around masculinity and its effects on mental health, the American Psychological Association (APA) has published new guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men. They recognize that men need to be listened to and cared for, despite social forces that can prevent them from accessing professional care. These guidelines also address “masculine” language that we should avoid when talking to our children.

Help Them Be at the Top of Their Game

The best way to help the men around us is to leave the stigma behind and talk openly about health. Let’s take men’s health month as an opportunity to make it acceptable for them to express their feelings and forget about cultural expectations. Here are some tips to make it happen:
  • If you know a man who might benefit from professional help, find a way to go with him or help him find resources so they know they are not alone
  • Catch yourself when acting in accordance with gender stereotypes
  • Use online resources like The Men’s Health Network or Man Therapy to start a discussion with them
  • Be flexible and allow men in your workplace to have family time when needed
  • Pay attention to their physical symptoms
  • Remind men that it is okay to solve their problems and improve their health
  • This guide by the CDC can help you identify the steps men can take to live a healthier life

If you need immediate help, we are here for you.

Need Mental Health Help Fast?

Call **ASK (star-star-2-7-5) from your cell phone or 1-800-939-5911.

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