In connection to what’s mentioned before it’s interesting to take a closer look at men and mental health.
The issues surrounding mental well being are way more stigmatized and taboo for men than it is for women.18 “Once you start to look at the intersection of men, masculinity, and mental health, it’s hard to avoid the sense that you’ve stumbled on the source of so many of our national nightmares. Mass shootings. Sexual assault and harassment. Domestic violence. The behavior of Donald Trump. People who don’t know much about this intersection don’t always grasp its profound implications on our most serious social problems” says Ronald Levant in an article on Tonic (part of Vice Media). He is the former head of the American Psychological Association and has spent decades researching men and mental health. Like Levant is saying; maybe at first glance it’s hard to see the connection between popular culture and mental health, but as soon as you take step back suddenly the red lines become crystal clear. If the options we give to men are downsized to emotionless archetypes who are trained to express their emotions through aggression and violence, it’s maybe not so surprising that most of the mass shootings in America are operated by men? Especially when you realize that women in the U.S. have the same access to guns as men. The difference is: we teach young girls to nurture their babies and boys to play with guns. We can have stricter gun control all we want, but if we don’t change the way society is intoxicating boys nothing will really change.
In 2015 the European Union reported 5.2 million deaths in total. From that number, more than 1% was due to intentional self-harm. It’s interesting to see that almost 8 out of 10 suicides are committed by men.19 The American Psychological Association reports that men seek less help than women and once they do, men have a harder time expressing their emotions. It’s good to note again that these differences between man and woman, are taught behaviors. We have adapted to the idea that certain behavior fits to our gender, but like Stuart Hall notes in his book Representation it’s important to remind ourselves that identity is something we, as humans, have invented. Everything we know is what we adapted to; it’s because somebody taught it to us. As a society we’ve gotten so used and comfortable around these roles that now they start to show some cracks, some of us start panicking and seem to hold on to these roles even more. History shows that we actually are able to adapt to new situations. Women are nog longer confined to the kitchen space, girls are allowed to vote, more and more countries are in favor of gay marriage, gay couples can get children etc. We know it’s possible to reform but the question is: where do we begin?