We’d all like to think that stigmas around men’s mental health and emotions are shifting for the better. Continually, however, we are reminded how much further we have to go.
In a letter to the editor published in Ohio in July 2021, a 12-year-old girl called out an announcer at a July 4th parade for proclaiming over the loudspeaker, “These are the future leaders of America,” as the Boy Scouts passed the parade route. As the Girl Scouts passed, the same announcer said the girls were “just having fun.”
You may not think this speaks directly to teaching boys how to express emotion. Consider, however, the message: “Boys, you are given a weight and prestige to become leaders of this country,” while girls are told, “Relax, have fun, enjoy.”
The message to the boys singles them out as leadership potential in a world where boys who show sensitivity are still viewed as weak.
The Ranch Pennsylvania is encouraging this discussion around men\’s mental health and emotions. For half of the world’s population, sharing honest feelings isn’t the norm.
Even identifying feelings can be challenging for a man raised to ignore all but the socially acceptable “male” feelings like anger, bravery, self-assuredness. We want to be a part of a new and better way, where everyone knows the experience of safely experiencing even the most vulnerable emotions.
Men’s Mental Health is Changing
With 28 Olympic medals to his name, swimmer Michael Phelps is the most successful Olympian to date. Twenty-three of those medals are gold. Phelps is also someone who openly shares about his mental health. Since he retired from swimming in 2016, Phelps has openly discussed his experience with depression and his childhood diagnosis of ADHD.
“I can go back to 2004 and say that was when I first experienced it,” Phelps said of his depression in a July 2021 article titled, “Michael Phelps: “Don’t be afraid to dream as big as you possibly can,” published at the official Olympics.com/Tokyo website. “That was the first time I came across depression coming back from the 2004 Olympic Games,” Phelps continued. “I suffered from post-Olympic depression pretty bad.”
In a 2017 article published in the Scientific American, titled, “The Importance of Fostering Emotional Diversity in Boys: Boys grow up in a world inhabited by a narrower range of emotions,” writers June Gruber and Jessica L. Borelli examine how vital it is for boys to learn a full range of emotions, also called emotional diversity.
This article discusses gender differences when it comes to identifying feelings. Girls, according to the article, understand more nuances around emotion. Little boys, for instance, are more likely to say, “I’m angry,” while little girls are more likely to pinpoint a nuance of anger, like frustration as the feeling they experience.
Research is showing how the people experiencing less depression and more contentment in life are also more able to express and identify the subtle differences in emotion. Self-awareness sometimes means picking up on subtleties, something a person can’t do if they don’t have the vocabulary.
A look into men’s mental health: real men don’t show feelings
- Never complain; just get it done.
- Men need to appear strong.
- Real men don’t cry.
- It’s a sign of weakness to share feelings.
Are these John Wayne-era social constructs about men still valid? Or, are we moving into a different time when men feel safe to share emotions openly without judgment?
Now is the time to examine how we talk little boys and how to encourage adult men to venture into the world of feelings.
Frontiers in Sociology published an article examining this issue in June of 2021, titled “Engendered Expressions of Anxiety: Men’s Emotional Communications with Women and Other Men,” by Brendan Gough, Steven Robertson, and Hannah Luck. The article examines outdated ideas of masculinity and considers what men need in order to feel comfortable sharing emotions.
The Ranch Pennsylvania wants to continue this discussion on men’s mental health. If you are a man feeling stuck, depressed, always angry or worn out from the weight of the world, call us to discuss options for treatment. Taking a step toward your own health and well-being always creates a wave of positive change for everyone. Call 866.947.7299.
By Heather Berry
Contributing Writer with Promises Behavioral Health