GUYS: IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL WELL-BEING
There are a lot of men who don’t care for their mental well-being – and that can be a problem for everyone in society. Read our interview with Dr Wizdom Powell, Director of the Health Disparities Institute, to learn what stops men from opening up and how they can make mental well-being a daily practice.
Why are men afraid to open up about mental health and well-being?
“Early in life, men are exposed to rules that discourage displaying vulnerability. Scientific evidence suggests that men are taught from a very early age to minimize psychological distress. Messages like ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘take it like a man’ reflect broader gender norms. These norms reflect our shared cultural understandings of how men should behave in the world. And, as a society, we are complicit in reinforcing the stereotypes that lead men and boys to believe they have to be strong, stoic and silent.
“Over time, men can become fearful of experiencing vulnerability, largely from pressure to internalize and adopt gender norms. Despite efforts to shift cultural perspectives, vulnerability among men is still largely socially prohibited. This is why men can feel intense shame when ‘softer’ emotions present themselves.
“Rigid adherence to stereotypical masculine norms can compromise mental well-being among men because it limits their full range of emotions and humanity. Data suggests it can reduce men’s engagement in self-care practices, too. It doesn’t just trap men and boys in the so-called ‘man box’ – it welds it shut, binds it in chains and sinks it to the bottom of the proverbial ocean.”
What are the benefits of mental well-being for men + society?
“Acknowledging and caring for one’s mental well-being is important for everyone – especially men who are more likely to perish prematurely from suicide and other chronic health conditions partly attributed to undertreated or undetected mental health challenges (like cardiovascular disease). These male health disparities also have a toll on our economy.
“Data shows that many men leave work because of unresolved behavioral health challenges (including mental health and substance misuse). These findings suggest that when men fail to acknowledge and care for their mental health, they may also experience challenges to upward social mobility and have a diminished capacity to contribute to their families or communities.
“We also know from scientific evidence that men who care for their mental well-being are less likely to engage in violence and aggression, especially against women and children. In fact, they form healthier relationships. When men care for their mental well-being, they’re being positive role models by teaching children positive help-seeking behaviors, too.
“In other words, when men care for their mental well-being, all of society benefits.”
How can men overcome societal pressures + look at mental well-being differently?
“Men should think of their mental well-being as deeply connected to their physical well-being. They should also consider focusing on mental health as a way to demonstrate masculinity. Men should try to reframe displays of masculinity as an opportunity to 'be a man' about their health and their families, and to push back on social roles that oppose radical self-care.
“The good news is that evidence shows men are more interested in adopting self-care today. They’re attempting to embrace self-care and more progressive masculine norms. We have to rise up to meet them. I believe that when we open up about mental well-being, we give our children and future generations radical permission to be fully human.”
How does caring for your skin help improve mental well-being, too?
“Skin care routines are a profoundly positive way to improve mental well-being. Symbolically and practically, such routines can help individuals create habits that center and realign them. There is something sacred and restorative about skin care. It helps us see ourselves in life’s mirror more clearly.”
What are the best ways to improve well-being + de-stress every day?
“Fostering routines that strike a balance between ‘activation’ and ‘contemplation’ is important. Men are conditioned to prefer ‘active coping’ for stress. This means men want to ‘do something’ in response to stress. Active coping is associated with improved mental well-being outcomes and lower levels of distress.
“However, strict reliance on active coping can also induce emotion avoidance or distraction. Data shows men are more likely to respond to stress by habitually suppressing emotions. It can make ‘contemplative practices’ less appealing, too. But these are a critical part of caring for our minds daily.
“Meditation is a broadly beneficial contemplative practice. The benefits of regular meditation for men include increased attention and emotional awareness, an enhanced sense of self-control in difficult situations, enhanced problem/stress management, and improved emotional intelligence and well-being. There are, however, limitations to meditation and other contemplative practices for certain mental health challenges (like trauma).
“The key to achieving positive mental well-being is improving our moment-to-moment awareness. Men should also consider seeking formal, preventive mental health services from a therapist or professional. Having a soft place to land before stress becomes overwhelming can mitigate the onset of more negative mental health outcomes.”
Discover more about the amazing benefits of making mental health, well-being and self-care a daily practice. Because when we care for ourselves, it helps us care for the people we love, too.