Men’s Mental Health: Everyone’s Concern

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Following the controversial tweet by Chidera Eggerue, Tasha talks men’s mental health.

As a self-proclaimed feminist, I find myself constantly defending feminism as a movement that fights for women’s rights to achieve equality, rather than a desire for women to be superior. Unfortunately, Chidera Eggerue, also known as @theslumflower, and her statements on twitter, questioning why she should care about men committing suicide, are exactly the kind of words that perpetuate the myth that feminists are man-haters.

Expressions of ignorance like this are so damaging to an ultimately inclusive movement as it draws attention away from the real issues we are trying to tackle and invalidates our arguments for equality. 

It seems to have been implied that, by acknowledging the struggles of men as well, we are somehow taking away from the aim of liberating women, or that one will take precedence over the other. But while we do have to make sure that the conversation is not hijacked, there is definitely space in the conversation for both issues – in fact, they would benefit from one other. By dismissing and invalidating the issue of men’s mental health, you only compound the problem and worsen the situation for both men and women. If you tell men their issues don’t matter, they will continue to bottle them up until they come out in unhealthy and damaging ways.

Why should men feel like they can’t confide in their peers and loved ones about how much they’re struggling? 

While @theslumflower’s point that the system was created for and by men at the expense of women is accurate, I would add that men do also suffer from this system. Toxic masculinity, which teaches men to be violent, unemotional and sexually aggressive, is an institutional issue imposed on men which affects everyone in society, and of course also has a devastating impact on the same women who askwhy should I care?”.

Validating the fact that men suffer from mental health issues and usually find them harder to express – repressing them instead because they are told from a young age to ‘be strong’ (which somehow equates to emotionless) and to ‘man up’ – does not invalidate the fact that “men have disproportionate access to power”, nor does it erase the countless women’s issues at the forefront of feminism. 

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under forty-five in the Western world, yet there is only just beginning to be a healthy dialogue among men about their own mental health struggles. It is very much a gender equality issue that females feel more comfortable approaching friends and family about their feelings than males. Why should men feel like they can’t confide in their peers and loved ones about how much they’re struggling? 

Society refuses to embrace men when they feel weak and vulnerable and need support, and toxic masculinity creates a hostile environment where two men who may be struggling with the same mental health problems feel as though they cannot open up to each other. As a result, many men do not benefit from a support system that could be potentially life-saving.

This is an issue that desperately needs more attention, and just as feminism is not exclusively a concern for women, men’s mental health should not only be a concern for men.

Tasha Austen