Why Men Don’t Express Pain – Log Kya Kahenge?
Boys don’t cry, do they? Aren’t you a macho man? Do you cry? Yes? Then you are WEAK!! And this is how the stigma develops. In the Indian context, men are socially conditioned to put a lid on their emotions in order to be perceived as strong, macho and man enough. The annual rate of more than 2.6 lakh suicides makes India world’s suicide capital.
It is statistically established than 1 in 5 individuals suffer from some or the other mental health conditions. The international Movember movement is focused on Men’s health, namely suicide prevention, prostrate and testicular cancer. It is symbolized by growing moustaches in the month of November. As a tribute to movement, this article explores the reasons that prevent men from seeking help for mental wellness issues, social stigma being high on the list.
While men may perhaps seek help for more severe issues, for common issues such as depression and anxiety, seeking help is perceived as a sign of weakness. In India, statistics show that men have a higher rate of mental disorders at 13.9% as compared to women at 7.5%, as per a survey conducted by The National Mental Health Survey 2016. On 16 September, 2020, Statista Research Department published an article with statistics and data related to mental health in India. According to this study, 71% youth agreed that the level of mental issues had increased over the years.
Even though statistically men have a higher prevalence of mental issues, in my over-a-decade long personal experience, I have seen more female patients than male. In fact, men only come when family members insist they do. Mothers, wives, daughters often encourage, rather insist, the men in their families to seek help. Not only is it difficult to get men to visit a mental health professional, it is equally or more challenging to get them to finish the course of therapy. It is no wonder that many men resort to alcohol or drugs as an outlet to manage their pain.
Emotions are a part of a higher cognitive experience. They are what make us human. Otherwise what is the difference between us and machines? Why then do men find it difficult to emote? To express? This may be so because our society strongly links a display of composure and quiet fortitude with a strong self image. This in turn makes a person feel like a failure if he engages in a display of how he actually feels inside. This is the first thing that stops men from seeking help – social stigma, “What will everyone say if I seek help?” Social attitudes towards those displaying signs of mental illness range from judging them as weak humans to judging them as crazy. These myths cast a dire shadow over mental issues and further deter males from seeking help. Individuals with issues are often considered as irresponsible and unable to manage themselves and their emotions. They are at times treated as outcasts, because, as funny as it sounds, mental issues are considered communicable, that if a so called normal person spends time with someone with issues then that person too will become crazy. Such are the social perceptions and attitudes!
To add to this melee, making it worse is the lack of insurance coverage for mental issues as well as lesser number of professionals in this area. To top it, there is a general lack of awareness when it comes to treatment methods and exactly who to seek for help. The difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is poorly understood. While medication is required for severe issues which is then prescribed by a psychiatrist, a psychologist uses talk therapy to counsel individuals. Both are scientific treatment methods and follow their own guidelines and protocols.
The first step is to identify the need for help, understand that it is okay to feel a certain way and what matters more is to seek help well in time to treat it and heal. The next step is to identify who to approach after an evaluation of the credentials and suitability. Last but not the least, one needs to put oneself above the judgments of society because one’s wellness matters the most! Society too needs to develop sensitivity and an inclusive attitude towards those suffering. Only when we manage to do so will we help ourselves, our family members, near and dear ones and society as a whole to evolve and heal!
So, while you reflect upon this article and decide when to book a therapy session, here are some quick tips for you to start practicing.
Break free – Develop awareness of your own emotions and feelings. It is okay to feel, you need not brush everything under the carpet. Talk to friends and family, express yourself.
Be kind – With the fast paced lives we live and the stress we undergo, it is natural to experience pain and distress. Do not judge yourself harshly. Be kind to yourself, as you owe it to you.
Take up a hobby or a sport – Sports and hobbies such as painting, creative writing are excellent ways to channelize your pent-up emotions. They provide a healthy outlet, as opposed to habits like drinking and drugs.
Support others – While you need to be kind to yourself, you also need to develop sensitivity to others. Support and lift those who may be suffering. Bring each other up, instead of down.
Schedule an annual check-up – Whether or not you need, consult a counselor every year just like you schedule an annual health check up. There is no shame in seeking help or seeking help to ensure you do not need help.
Try these easy tips. While these will help you greatly, do consider therapy if you find it difficult to handle on your own! Remember, kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna! So learn to ignore the voices of others and do what is best for you, so REACH OUT!