As a society, we overlook the vital issue of men’s mental health too many times as a result of our own biases, often leaving them to simply endure in silence
Recently the news about Sushant Singh Rajput shook us all. It made me realise that men can be susceptible to depression. As a woman who has four significant men in my life — my father, my brother, my husband and my son, I have long been encouraging them to take care of their mental health. I have received replies like - "Don't worry us men are stronger than you women", "You are too sensitive while we are practical" and the latest that "Men should be able to endure all stress".
Am I wrong to worry about their mental health? What can I do?
We live in a world full of prejudices. Sadly it is us humans who make these social constructs and prejudices. Mental health & illness do not discriminate. Anyone can be affected by a mental health disorder, irrespective of gender, caste, race, economic and educational status. However, the topic you have brought forward is by far the most overlooked, and notorious to be swept under the rug, the topic of men's mental health.
Suicide rates from around the world show that as of 2015, almost two-thirds of worldwide suicides are committed by men. We have lost "strong" men like Anthony Bourdain, Robin William, Curt Cobain and not long ago, Sushant Singh Rajput.
The age-old idea that men need to endure all stress and not voice out their emotions has been ingrained in our minds as a society. A man crying attracts instant judgement, negative attention and scrutiny. Perhaps even a few guffaws. In the Indian context, some of the reasons why men commit suicide range from relationship issues, financial concerns, matters of prestige, difficulty in domestic harmony and drug or substance addiction.
What can be done?
It may not be simple but it is worth the effort to start normalising mental health and illness. Talk more about depression, suicide, anxiety, stress and more.
For long we have been fighting for bridging the gap between the two genders. This should work in both directions. Normalise men feeling sad, displaying affection, emotions and even feeling vulnerable. Our movie heroes can also try to depict more "real men" than pseudo macho men.
Days like International Men's Day give an opportunity for more men to talk about various issues that cause them woes. We may be oblivious to their plight if we don't encourage them to open up and talk.
And finally, the future is in the hand of our next generation. As a society, we should cajole children to talk openly about emotions from early on, irrespective of their gender. Avoiding terms like "don't behave like a girl" or "You are a boy, and boys don't cry" can be the starting point. The start of this big wave can begin at home. The older generation may be slightly more resistant to this change of "Mard ko bhi dard hota hai" movement, but as a society, we need to slowly adopt this change.
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