Behind the pre-conceived ‘macho’ image of men created by the society lies a huge pool of untapped emotions that men go through. Most of these emotions are supressed to live up to the societal and cultural norms which leads many men to silently bottling up emotional and mental issues. Currently, the mental health and well-being of men presents a dire picture in India. As per research, roughly 65% of the suicides in India are committed by men; about 44% of these are due to marital issues, family issues and illness.
Stress affects men’s health differently than how it affects women’s health. While stress tends to activate the “tend and befriend” response in women, men have been found to react to stress more with the aggressive “fight or flight” response, according to a study. Common issues reported by men are work stress, relationship issues, pressure from family to arrange for finances, etc. On the occasion of National Men’s Health Week which is celebrated from 13th to 19th June this year, let us understand how and why maintaining mental health is important for men.
Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Men
Stress, depression and anxiety seem to be the most common afflictions in mental health for men. Depression and stress in men can show in the forms of aggression, irritability, low sexual drive, and frequently explosive behaviour. Stress can manifest in the forms of aches and pains or a lower immunity. Stress also harms the reproductive systems by decreasing testosterone levels. Prolonged distress disrupts inter-personal relations and leads to social withdrawal in men.
3 Probable Causes of Stress
Understanding the sources also helps us to identify the cultural lens which does not allow men to seek help. Here are some of the causes of stress in Indian men.
1. Work and Expectation Stress
Increased expectations from work and performance pressure may strain one’s mental health. If not handled appropriately, tension levels may surge leading to mental and physical concerns. Bravery, adventurousness, being able to think rationally, being strong and effective, are all perceived as "manly" traits that are usually encouraged by family and peers. Men make up for a major part of the corporate workforce, and according to an Assocham study, 42.5% of corporate employees in India suffer from depression.
Scenario in the IT industry is dreadful as employees report lack of social contact due to work burden. Psychiatrists in Bangalore and Delhi have noticed that almost one third of their patients are techies. This group of employees feel wretched looking at other’s happening updates. With hiring precincts and pay confines in the IT industry, lay-offs are common with rising pressures.
2. Financial Debts
As per societal beliefs, men are expected to arrange for required finances to support the family. It is not easy to manage funds in this inflation-ridden era. Monetary pitfalls are a huge, underappreciated cause of men’s mental health problems. Loans, share market losses, and debts are a cause of major depression and suicide. Cruel treatment by loan sharks and banks may force debt-stricken men to resort to murder, suicide, robbery or a number of other crimes.
Gay, bisexual men and trans folk may also be at a very high risk for depression as their sexuality is not well accepted by the society and the Indian law. Gay and bisexual men are at higher risk for mental health issues than their straight counterparts. Age, ethnicity, income and education have a large impact on mental health.
Ways to overcome stress
Many men do not release their stress and anxiety which turn to be worse later. Overtime, this unaddressed stress can lead to escape behaviours like substance addiction or lack of emotional management which harms their relationships. Men, like women, need to be understood, taken care of, and allowed to be emotional. Experts believe that early detection of physical and mental chronic issues are imperative to improving men’s health. Here’s how men can tackle mental health issues.
1. Be Vocal
Rather than avoiding and brushing off discussing sensitive topics, indulge in meaningful conversations that can lead to richer relationships. Get rid of the unwritten “bro-code” and be open about discussing what you feel with your friends.
You will find your relationship with the women (spouse, partner, siblings, mother, friends, and colleagues) in your life drastically improving once you open up to them about your feelings and reciprocate when they express themselves. You will feel a lot less burdened with thoughts and will start enjoying the little things in life. For some, anonymous counselling portals can help to get a third party suggestion on dealing with conditions.
2. Boys Do Cry
Boys are raised with the slogan of ‘boys don’t cry’, to the extent that they have to deal with abuse, bullying and ragging like a “man” while in reality, these are horrifying instances that leave them scarred for life. When growing up your children, teach boys that it’s okay to cry and feel bad and it’s not ‘girly.’ Teach them what emotions are, how to identify them and how to manage the negative ones.
3. Share the Burden
Men are taught to measure life’s growth with a financial yardstick, completely side-lining the emotional growth that is essential for healthy interpersonal relationships. Due to this most men appear to be insensitive and emotionally unstable. Family members should reduce the financial and expectation pressure on men by shouldering some of the responsibilities. Suitably dividing accountabilities and duties can keep everyone happy.
4. Discover the Real You
Most men think and believe that expressing what they feel will make them defenceless and they might lose control of their lives. Whereas the fact is you lose control of your life when you are unaware to what you are feeling and disconnected to the “real” you. Discover yourself and act to keep yourself happy. Self-talk can work wonderfully in knowing yourself and your goals.
Men need to come out of this shell and embrace what they are. The first step is acceptance of your own feelings. It’s perfectly normal to have emotions and that does not make you any less of a man. On the contrary, men that are comfortable with expressing themselves are able to perform better in their professional as well as personal lives.
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