editoral,  informational

Boys Will Be Boys

Boys Will Be Boys

The Negative Effects of Toxic Masculinity on Mental Health


Peining Zhang 11/27/2020

 *June is Men’s Health Month! This movement strives to create awareness and fight the negative stigma of mental illnesses in men*

The emphasis society places on social media creates a negative stigma towards mental health in men, branching off a set of unrealistic ideas created by society that are now seen as the norm. Toxic masculinity refers to a cultural concept that outlines hegemonic masculinity that could not only harm personal relationships, but mental health as well. Based on recent studies, it is clear that this harmful concept is deeply associated with the negative stigma surrounding mental health. A study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2017 shows that the male suicide rate from misuse of drugs and alcohol is approximately 4% higher than that in women.

 

With society being exposed to many forms of media, men are pressured to act in ways that fit the expectations created by a set of unrealistic ideas. Movies are a main source of this pressure, glorifying men to be strong and heroic while sending the message that vulnerability implies femininity. These negative influences cause many men to feel shame over their mental health issues, causing them to underreport their symptoms. Men are encouraged to be the protectors, but in most cases fall short in protecting themselves. As the media introduces more impractical expectations (including misogyny, greed, and violence), there is a noticeable correlation between the negative impacts of toxic masculinity and an increase in depression-related substance abuse in men. Zach Levin of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation uses thorough research to reveal that the unwillingness to talk about symptoms is a tactic used to preserve authority, leading many to turn to drugs as a coping strategy. The demographics become very concerning, revealing that around 62,000 men die from alcohol-drug misuse annually.

 

So how can society step in to encourage communication and stop people from getting to that final coping stage?

 

Toxic masculinity applies not only to one’s mental health, but their physical health as well. There is a set expectation that men must be able to solve their own problems and completely deny their illness when they are unable to get rid of it. Ultimately, to eliminate this negative stigma on men, there needs to be effort in transparency and education. Levin explains “No one is immune to stress. Talking with others…can foster empathy… and support — all of which can fight against isolation on which addiction and mental health issues can thrive.” Transparency and open communication, whether through support groups, hotlines, or loved ones, can help with understanding that all emotions are valid and there is easy, accessible help. Research from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan stresses the importance of educating society to eliminate the norms of toxic masculinity, revealing that prolonged mental illness can develop into physical ailments alongside the detriment of drug abuse. The negative physical elements may include all types of organ failure, which may ultimately result in the premature demise of the individual in question.

 

If you or a loved one is experiencing doubt in mental illness, it is suggested to look out for signs of change in mood and/or work performance, weight changes, and physical discomfort. While the stigma is slowly being addressed, it is important to remember that asking for help can be considered a sign of strength instead of weakness.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

 

“Infographic: Mental Health for Men.” Mental Health America, 

www.mhanational.org/infographic-mental-health-men.

 

Campbell, Leah. “How Mental Health Stigma Affects Men.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 30 June 

2019, www.healthline.com/health-news/how-can-we-reduce-mens-mental-health-stigma.

 

Content – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center, 

www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1.

 

“Men and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human 

Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health/index.shtml.

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