Men-tal health: Breaking the stigma for males seeking therapy
If you look at popular culture, men have traditionally been portrayed as stoic, strong and in the role of the “breadwinner.” From birth, gender stereotypes and norms are inculcated in a child, whether it be as simple as blue is for boys and pink for girls or boys can’t play with dolls. Think back to how often boys are told “Boy’s don’t cry” or “Don’t cry like a girl!” and even “Don’t be a princess!” It’s ingrained in them from the beginning that their emotions shouldn’t be expressed and subsequently instills that their feelings don’t matter leading to the potential discouragement of processing their emotions which can later be hard to deal with as they navigate the ups and downs of life.
This is particularly true in certain traditional cultures where the man has to take the lead and be the “man of the house.” As we have more honest conversations as a society, it’s heartening to see more men speak openly about their mental health challenges and their desire to seek therapy. Therapy offers a safe, non-judgmental space for people to explore how their experiences have shaped them and the impact it’s had on their mental health. For many men, it’ll be one of the first times they’re openly communicating about their feelings. Toxic masculinity is harmful to women, but it also has a negative impact on men as they suppress their emotions and are discouraged from seeking help. Research shows it can also result in self-harm for men or harming those around them. These behaviors are also often dismissed with a “boys will be boys” without people realizing the impact these deeply imbedded gender notions can have on someone or encourage negative behavior.
It’s crucial that gender sensitization begins from a young age where both boys and girls are treated equally and are offered the space to be vulnerable and display their feelings. Let your son help you in the kitchen, in fact, encourage him to be your sous chef. Allow your child to play with any toy they want and set a good example by creating a gender-neutral environment where parents show emotions, encourage conversations and share the household responsibilities. Leading by example will allow your child to imbibe this naturally and help mould them into an emotionally healthy adult.
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