Tell a Man It’s Okay to Cry - The Importance of Male Mental HealthMay 15, 2021 09:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian
Figure 1 - Men struggling to express themselves. Source - Google Images
Society has come a long way in accepting gender and ethnic diversities. We have our first Black and South Asian female US vice president, the first Black general leading the Pentagon, and the first LGBTQ+ Cabinet secretary, to name only a few. While this progression is something to be celebrated, we are still holding on to the outdated ideology that men should withhold their emotions, burden themselves, and in some cases, choose death over life because society still thinks that “men don't cry."
While society has accepted many changes in this Millenium, the identity of the “real man” has stayed the same. When a young boy thinks about his father, he often visualizes a strong man, someone who lifts mountains without breaking a sweat. As that young boy grows up, that original ideology can become a benchmark of actual strength, and so every time he feels a wave of emotion, this could be considered a weakness, and he feels the need to remind himself that he is a “real man”. So, he pushes those feelings down and moves on. But why are physical strength and lack of emotional vulnerability known as the persona of a strong man?
Figure 2 - Signs of Toxic Masculinity. Source - Pexels
When we put a man's life under a societal microscope, he always chooses physical strength over emotional sensitivity because of the ridicule from both family and community. Such choices can lead him to suppress his emotions, and the outlet for such suppressed emotions can come out as domestic abuse, drug and alcohol consumption, and suicide. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for young and adult Black men, and it has doubled since the late 80s. The brand of masculinity, racism in the workspace, and societal judgement are main factors that have affected Black men's mental health.
"It's okay" Let's add these two words before every emotion men are trained to suppress. It's okay to feel anxious because work is too much. It's okay to feel shy because of a girl. It's okay to feel sad, and it's okay to cry.To kickstart this change, we need to start in the home. Parents should be open to accepting their child's sensitivity and shatter the ancient norm of “strength” meaning lack of emotion. As a society, we need to recognize that sensitivity is the sign of real strength and reduce the stigma around the ideology of 'manhood.'
Figure 3 - Acknowledging and seeking help is the first step towards recovery. Source - Pexel
The good news is, we are seeing many Black artists using their mediums to showcase the importance of seeking help and being open about their mental health struggles. Musical giants like Kanye West and Jay Z have talked openly about their mental health issues and highlighted the importance of therapy. Sports icons Ron Artest and Brandon Marshall have also become mental health advocates and use their social platforms to spread awareness. Recording artist Kid Cudi has openly talked about his substance abuse and mental health issues and later became an outspoken voice about breaking the stigma around mental illness. Besides celebrities, social media has become a growing community where people have started to truly acknowledge the importance of therapy.These individual contributions have helped to create a dent in the ancient and outdated, toxic ideology of manhood.
As more men come forward about their mental health struggles, it is hopeful that others will join the crowd and create that ripple of change in society. It is important to spread this message which normalizes the difficulties of everyday life and tells a man that “it's okay to cry”.
Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.
Read more from Anand Subramanian:
A Legacy of Strength & Love - Mother’s Day
What 'This Is Us' Taught Me About Masculinity and Fatherhood
The Dance Between Instrumentals and Visuals: An Opinion Piece