College Masculinity and Mental Health

The stigma discouraging men from discussing their mental health is especially dangerous in college.
March 22, 2017
7 mins read

Mental health is perhaps the most vulnerable, delicate aspect of the human makeup, yet it also is one of the most ignored. Emotional and psychological well-being are essential to a happy, healthy life; however, despite the fact that approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, the topic is often swept under the rug. Why is this?

If someone were to break their leg, they would undoubtedly rush to the hospital to get it fixed, but when someone feels broken inside, they bottle these feelings up and attempt to deal with them on their own. This issue is especially prevalent among men. The stigma surrounding mental illness is often what prevents people from seeking help; the fear that the way they feel is neither normal nor acceptable can be a powerful repellent that sends the victim retreating back into their own feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.

It's Time for Men to Acknowledge the Importance of Their Mental Health
Image via Daily Hive Vancouver

This article absolutely does not stand to discredit mental illness in women, as anxiety and depression are beasts untamed by the restraints of gender or race. However, pre-established norms, whose fingers still unfortunately tightly suffocate the throat of society, have dictated rules which genders must strictly adhere to.

Men are supposed to be tough and unaffected by the “triviality” of anxiety. The media and the entertainment industry present the image of the fearless male badass, who doesn’t give a shit about bullets, let alone depression. However, the movies never show the scene where John Wick wakes up every morning and pops two milligrams of Clonazepam.

From the day men are born, they are taught to ignore their feelings.

Sad? Crybaby. Hurt? Rub some dirt on it, pussy. Angry? Good, hit someone.

It’s really no wonder that men grow up believing they have nowhere to turn to when they feel lost and miserable. This stereotype of men unfortunately finds its peak in college, where being the “alpha-male” is undeniably the most important role one can assume.

Mental illness has no place in the world of smashing beers, hooking up with girls and dominating athletics, and thus, must take a back seat to the usual necessities inherent to male dominance among other men. Admitting to feelings of sadness and isolation is seen as a declaration of weakness, making it hard for guys to admit even to their best of friends that they’re having a tough time.

This stigma is unfortunately deeply rooted, as people who suffer from mental illness have been branded as “insane” or “crazy” continuously throughout history. The connotation of “padded room in a straight-jacket” that clings to the words mental health resonates deeply in people, especially men, who fear that their manhood will be compromised and they will be mocked if they admit to needing help.

It is precisely this fear that is unfortunately preventing so many struggling men from obtaining professional help, and, mournfully so, why the world is losing beautiful, meaningful lives at an alarmingly increasing rate to suicide.

It is sadly ironic that it is man’s inability to look vulnerable or weak in the eyes of others that inhibits them from admitting to suffering at the hands of mental illness, because it’s these same men that are exhibiting incredible strength and perseverance as they battle tirelessly against the illness every day. If only men were able to see obtaining help and defeating mental illness through a competitive lens as they do for so many other aspects in life, then they would realize that it’s an accomplishment, not a defeat.

Whether it’s panic, depression or any other hideous form of mental illness that chooses to rear its ugly head, the victim can be left feeling hopelessly alone. This loneliness, in turn, causes the person to feel even more isolated, which only further cements their inability to reach out and find help, and thus perpetuates the illness.

Anxiety is often at the center of mental illness as it breeds panic, self-doubt and misery. Anxiety feels like a wrench tightening a nut on a screw that is already firmly in place; the tension begins to build and build until the wrench eventually starts stripping the nut of its outer cover, wearing it down into uselessness.

It's Time for Men to Acknowledge the Importance of Their Mental Health
Image via Atlanta Black Star

This uselessness can take a hold of you and grind your significance into nothing more than the dirt that you feel so similarly to. It overthrows your consciousness and fills you so full of dread and self-doubt that it becomes hard to decipher if the thoughts are yours or depression’s.

It is of the utmost importance to know that you’re not alone. Colleges across the nation offer mental health services that will work with you to battle the demons that have taken a stronghold on your mind. Psychiatrists, who specialize in mental health issues, are a valuable instrument in diagnosing disorders and aiding you in their eradication through professional help and prescription medication.

The Suicide Hotline is available to call 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Reach out to your friends, your family, and your loved ones, because sometimes it just helps to talk. And if we all start talking, then that might be just what we need to rid society of this toxic stigma.

When someone is so fully engulfed by depression, it can feel as if they are gasping for air, drowning in their own feelings of despair and lack of self worth without a lifeguard in sight. However, it is incredibly important to know—the lifeguard is there. All you have to do is call out.

Terry Mooney, Ohio State University

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