Mental Health

Masculinity and the Stigma of Mental Illnesses

As young adults enroll in college and deal with a vast amount of responsibilities, many have dealt with things like anxiety. At times anxiety sometimes worsens and leads to panic attacks, or even worse, depression. The issue with this is that most of us tend to suppose that this happens to everyone at some point in their life.

Partially, this is true. There are certain stages in life where there is a drastic transition and it becomes difficult for you to balance or deal with it. But, you can truly deal with mental illnesses and there is sometimes no explanation for it.

To give you some case studies, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.You might look at those numbers and say, “Wow that is a lot of people, how come I never notice it?”  Because of something called stigma.

The Mayo Clinic defines stigma as, “When someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype). Stigma can make people reluctant and afraid to seek help or treatment. People are afraid because stigma can lead to discrimination. Stigma can even lead you to judge yourself at times.

Frankly, from being close with a lot of people that have dealt with things like eating disorders and depression I have heard that they get questions from their own parents asking questions like, “What did you do to cause this is eating disorder? and “why are you depressed? They also hear statements like, “get over it”, or “there are bigger problems in life.” Subtle comments like that are why some of us can be reluctant to come out and ask for help.

This situation tends to be a complication with males.

Some men believe that if they show that we are in need or display a little bit of emotion, it will crush their masculinity. Which is not true because we are all humans and are supposed to show emotion, and there are times which we will need to ask someone for a hand. Then there is some of us that believe if we show that we are in need, or display a little bit of emotion that we will be mocked or scrutinized for it.

In the Somali community which I was raised in, every time the topic of mental health came up, people would brush it off and say things like, “It is not true”, or “that person is crazy.” Hearing hurtful comments like that will make you afraid to ever seek out assistance and will result in you judging yourself and asking, “maybe there is something wrong with me?”

Do not ever let this affect you. It is disappointing that there is stigma surrounding mental illness, and we need to do more about, because these false beliefs can cause significant problems.

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Mohamed Abdullahi

African-American filmmaker, graphic designer, and writer.

Masculinity and the Stigma of Mental Illnesses
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