Oct 31, 2019 • Avik Das
Every year, I participate in Movember, a charity focused on men’s health. I started participating when I learned the charity addresses mental health in addition to prostate and testicular cancer. It’s this focus on mental health that spoke to me.
Even though mental illness affects everyone, the way it’s handled is definitely gendered. Men are told to “toughen up” when talking about the way they feel, or they never even get to the point of talking about their feelings. The same response affects men who are not facing mental illness, but simply want to share their experiences. This in turn can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. isolation, and down the line, mental illness. Mental health is holistic, and needs to be addressed at its societal roots.
Some of the falsehoods associated with masculinity are:
The end result isn’t just bad for men, it’s bad for society. Instead of dealing with their emotions in a healthy manner, men express themselves with anger and violence, either towards themselves or towards others.
Movember’s page on mental health covers how they tackle these issues, through education, conversations and communities. For example, the Prevention Institute, a US non-profit focusing on public health, prepared a report about the mental health landscape in the US, in particular as it relates to men and boys. The entire report is worth the read, but what stuck out to me most was:
The socialization of men and boys in the U.S. is at odds with advancing the mental health and wellbeing of males. From a very young age, boys learn that they shouldn’t cry or complain; they should be self-reliant; and they should tough out pain and hardship. This self-reliance is reflected in the tendency to seek help late, if at all.
The report outlines how community-oriented approaches can push men and boys to seek the help they need, and improve our mental health. For reasons like this, I participate in Movember to get these programs the funding they need, as well as to spark a conversation.
This Movember, I’m challenging my network to speak up. Here’s how everyone can help:
Friends of the movement: reach out to someone in your network, a colleague or a friend, and encourage them to speak up about how they feel. Don’t make it about solutions. Start by hearing them out.
Men and boys: share one thought with the world that makes you feel vulnerable. Not every feeling needs to be acted upon, but our feelings are valid. We owe to ourselves to start the conversation.
In the end, mental wellbeing is something we all have to work toward. Because I identify as a man, I am approaching the male side of the equation. And it’s an approach that I personally know is sorely needed.
If you want to fund my Movember fundraiser, please find me at my Movember page at https://mobro.co/akdas.