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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Rodriguez

Why Are Men in a Mental Health Crisis?

We are seeing article after article discussing how our men are suffering from a mental health crisis in this country. They are committing suicide at higher rates, reporting intense loneliness, much higher rates of drug abuse and alcoholism, along with decreased earning power, and increased divorce rates. One of the possible contributions could be Male Normative Alexithymia. This sounds very clinical and diagnostic, but it just describes how some men struggle to identify and express their feelings. A lot of men have a hard time putting what they feel into words. In my practice, I often hear men say things like, “I don’t know how I feel about that, but I know it's bad.”


There are many causes for Alexithymia, but a major one is how we socialize our men and boys. Being told to “toughen up” and don’t cry doesn’t create a space for men to identify with what is going on inside. If I can’t even tell you what the problem is, then how can I be expected to solve it or reach out for help? So much of the work men struggling with their mental health do in therapy is simply connecting with themselves and asking how do I actually feel about this. Do I actually feel this way, or have I just been told that this is how I should feel?


Some of the few emotions that are “okay” for men to openly express in our society are anger, flatness, and joy (but not too much joy). This is why sometimes a man can feel intense sadness but not connect with it. It can then come out like anger, or they might isolate themselves when they might be needing comfort or connection from others.


This can put male relationships at risk because there is now growing pressure for both genders to have higher emotional intelligence and regulation. If you grow up not receiving any guidance on your emotions, or how to express them, it can be tough to do that effectively in adulthood. This is especially true not just within romantic relationships, but in male friend groups. In a cis-gendered heteronormative world the expectation is for men to hang out together but not discuss deeper emotional topics. Or even to act especially closed off and “strong” around their male friends.


Therapy and a supportive environment can be beneficial to men struggling with their mental health. Our emotions were given to us for a reason, and we need them to survive. Men deserve to live in a world and an environment where they can discuss their emotions and not have their masculinity called into question. Having feelings doesn’t make you weak, they make you human.











References:


REEVES, R. V. (2022). Of boys and men: Why the modern male is struggling, why it matters, and what to do about it. Brookings Institution Press.




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