No, men don't need to "talk more"
Is it just me that's getting real tired of people using the sentiment of "just talking to people" to somehow how magically ease the mental health difficulties of men.
It's no secret that the men's suicide rate is tragically increasing. In 2019 men made up 3/4 of the suicides in England and Wales and with the added toll of lockdowns and the global pandemic mental health awareness is in the fore front of a lot of our minds. Social media is plastered with people opening up their dms for people who "just want to talk" and every day we are reminded of the sheer toll the current global situation is having on us mentally. And of course this isn't something that just affects men. In fact in 2019 there was an increase of suicides among women under 25. But as a man I think I can speak from the male perspective and the way we approach mental health for men is very different to women.
Men are often told that it is because of toxic masculinity that they feel as though they can't open up and be vulnerable. We are subconsciously or consciously trying to live up to some standard of what it means to be a man, that's the reason and then the conversation just stops there. There never seems to be any other discussion for why men choose to not talk or openly deal with their emotions. And this simplistic and reductionist view of the situation really does do men a disservice. Not every problem a man has is down to toxic masculinity. It may be due to health reasons, societal roles, oppressive systems or dare I say, women. And each of these factors affects a man vastly different to how it would affect a woman.
And before I continue this isn't me comparing or somehow suggesting that men have it worse than women or vice versa. Both men, women and any self identifying people have their own struggles and by acknowledging one you are not inherently diminishing another. I can speak about men's issues because I am man and it is what I experience I can not give the same account as to what women go through simply because I am not one.
To suggest that in any given situation of emotional distress or deteriorating mental health all men need to is talk to alleviate the problem is a fallacy. And don't get me wrong of course in numerous situations talking does help and I by no means want to take away from the incredible work Samaritans do just by being an attentive ear and giving anyone the space to share the burden of their mental health. But "talking" is a process in and of itself. I can think of numerous times where I've opened up and made myself emotionally vulnerable only for it to backfire. Looking back it was probably best to keep my mouth shut. And when we do decide to open up about our feelings 1 of three things can happen. You either are judged, the listener somehow makes the situation about themselves or your vulnerability is used against you later down the line. So when people say, "talk to someone", that's all well and good but it really does matter who you talk to. People who are trained, that's great, some random stranger on Instagram, I don't know about that.
Not to be a negative nelly, I can understand the sentiment and why people say they're there for people who want to talk but also the cynic in my finds it quite performative and people using it as an opportunity to show that they're a "good" person. Because the truth of the matter is very few of us can listen to someone's issues without having an emotional response. The moment this person opens up to you and says something you may not like or disagree with are you still able to be that person that they can talk to? You want men to open up but you can't choose what they open up about. I remember a while ago Rihanna posted this meme, and I know it's just a meme, It's supposed to be funny but I think it sparked a legitimate debate. But the sentiment of the meme was basically that if you're in a relationship with a guy and he cries because his ex died then you'd split up with him. And women were actually taking this seriously and I think this illustrates my point. You want men to show their emotions you want them to be more vulnerable but if they're showing emotions over something you don't like, then it's goodbye. And if we're talking about their ex literally dying and you can't afford your partner to feel some kind of way about that then you might be the problem. Also, why do we automatically assume ex means bad. Can't we have exes who we're on good terms with? Anyway, that's a blog post for another day. When people are in distress or expressing themselves emotionally the only way you can effectively help them is if you're able to step outside yourself. This means leaving behind all your judgements, biases, political views and so on.
So you understand why I have issues with "just talk". Talking can get people in a lot of trouble and a lot of you would regret encouraging your significant other to talk about their feelings. This isn't me pinning all men's problems on women by the way, I understand that it was starting to feel like that but it can certainly play a factor in why a guy may decide to keep his emotions to himself.
I also remember someone claiming that men need to "cry more" which is just a really dumb thing to say in my opinion. It's honestly so frustrating constantly being told how I need to act because I am a man. And claiming that men "need to cry more" is assuming that crying serves the same function to everyone else as it does to you. I know numerous people who love a good cry. And that is fine! Great, if crying helps you deal with your emotions then you should keep that up. But for me personally, you know why I rarely cry. Because for me crying makes me feel like I have no control, I have never ever felt better after crying. it has nothing to do with my masculinity, its got nothing to do with society telling me I need to "be strong". I don't cry because it doesn't serve me any function or purpose. And that is okay. Let me be here and not cry, don't tell me it's "okay to cry". Why would I not do something that I thought could help me?
I think we're living in a time where everyone is trying to play psychiatrist. You've read one book or seen a single tweet and somehow you think you can speak on everyones emotional state with little information. And it happens all the time you'll see a news article going round and people will try and come to conclusions on people's psychological state based on 500 words. Just because there are some forms of toxic masculinity out there that negatively impact men and women it doesn't mean it pervades everything men do and that cannot be your default just because you don't like how a guy is acting. There isn't one way to be a man, there isn't one way to be a woman we are all just out here trying our best so don't draw conclusions on people you literally do not know.
What actually helps me is writing, especially pieces like this where I am able to share something a little bit personal. But actually I think in today's social media landscape I feel as though I can't openly talk about issues I'm having as a man because to some people they don't compare to other "oppressed" groups. I'm sure a lot of you all have already judged me for some things I've said here. Some people claim that there is no need for Men's Rights Activists, as if men are walking through life with 0 problems. And that's why I would never openly or actively share a lot of these sentiments regularly on social media because there are people that will shut you down. There is space and time for everyone to advocate for issues that they care about. Whether that's feminism, trans rights or men's rights. We can all acknowledge that we live in a world that stems from a flawed view of male superiority but it doesn't mean men don't have issues today or that their issues are somehow less important than groups that have historically been oppressed. We're always so caught up in debates being a dichotomy of opinions. Everything is only ever two sided and there's no room for nuance.
I don't have to go very far on social media to see posts about feminism or LGBTQ+ awareness which is great! It's good that people are able to use their voices to speak about movements they care passionately about, but to me personally men's rights aren't as actively spoken or well received yet we wonder why men have trouble "speaking up". Honestly, I see more posts about how men are trash than insightful and helpful content on real issues men are having today.
Maybe I just need to follow different people. I don't know.