Editorial 10/7: Hypermasculinity is killing our men

Canisius, it’s time we had a serious talk about mental illness on campus. As college students, we are often plagued by an inordinate amount of homework and extracurriculars, and find ourselves ignoring our personal health to complete our daily list of tasks. We stay up late and wake up early because we need to finish all of our homework, we skip breakfast to ensure we’re on time for class, and we ignore the pounding headaches and night-sweats that keep us awake at night. During this stressful and exhausting period of our lives, it is not uncommon to experience feelings of worthlessness, doubt, or overwhelming sensations that nothing we do is good enough. Sometimes, these feelings pass after the end of a stressful week, and sometimes they stick around for a few weeks….and a few months. Sometimes, they don’t ever go away.

On average, 41% of college students experience anxiety and 36% experience depression. Luckily, Canisius offers incredible services at the Counseling Center, which give students the opportunity to discuss their concerns and learn how to balance their school work with their mental health.

On Thursday, the Counseling Center offered anonymous depression and anxiety screenings to Canisius students – then offering those students an opportunity to meet with a counselor. These services are essential to ensuring that student mental health is a priority on campus. But, a giant portion of the Canisius population are statistically less-likely to take advantage of these services, and often times silently suffer because of it.

Men commit suicide 3.5 times more frequently than women. Specifically, white males accounted for 7 out of 10 suicides in 2014. While there is no one, specific explanation for this phenomenon, there is one hypothesis that stands out as the most probable cause: socialized hypermasculinity.

Men are socialized in America to be aggressive, fearless, risk-takers. They cannot be emotional or too expressive, for fear of seeming “gay” or “feminine”. Men are not allowed to be sad or cry (unless their favorite football team lost) or enjoy the embrace and comfort of another human being (unless you count the shoulder-pat, bro-hug, that men occasionally give one another).  As a result, men are more likely to bottle their negative emotions, or act in impulsive and overtly aggressive manners in order to cope.

Realistically, men and women experience the same emotions. Every person on this planet is capable, and should be allowed to feel anger, sadness, gratitude, joy, nervousness, and doubt. But the way that we socialize the genders forces men to believe that they are not allowed to harp on negative emotions or thoroughly enjoy positive ones. Crying is for hormonal women and glee is for drama clubs. God forbid a man get actually excited about something as simple as a baby, or a puppy, or as monumental as accepting a job offer for the career of his dreams.

America has created an unreasonable and unrealistic rhetoric about how men are allowed to emote, and it’s dangerous. “Being a man” is associated with an immunity to feelings of insecurity or depression. But, of course, this is completely false. Men can be depressed, they can feel suicidal, and they are not less of a man because they couldn’t “suck it up”.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the narrative that men adopt, and as a result, they are often stuck fighting their mental illnesses alone. As a society, we have failed our men by allowing this destructive definition of masculinity to permeate the minds of our boys. As a result, men are committing suicide at far greater rates than women. We are losing our boys to this crisis, and it’s time that we change this.

On Wednesday, “Day ‘N’ Nite” rapper, Kid Cudi, posted an emotional status on Facebook about his admittance into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. In the post he writes:

“Im scared, im sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, Im sorry. Its time I fix me. Im nervous but ima get through this.”

This heart-wrenching post resonated with a lot of Kid Cudi’s fans, and sparked a social media movement, which encouraged black men to talk about their emotions and vulnerabilities. The hashtag #YouGoodMan became a safe-haven for men everywhere to openly discuss mental health without fearing judgement. This is a step forward in the right direction, and we need more men to speak up about how they are feeling, and in turn, seek out the help that they deserve.

For all of the men (and women) out there who are suffering in silence, afraid of the judgement they will get for not “sucking it up” or “growing a pair”, we here at The Griffin are with you. We stand by you, and we will continue to stand up for you. Your mental illness does not define you, and your emotions don’t make you less of a man. The Counseling Center is a free, and anonymous resource that is available to you if you need it.

Even if you’re not currently experiencing any instability in your mental health, you can help by furthering the discussion about mental health. Be there for your fellow Griffs. Standing up to dangerous stereotypes and being courageous enough to talk about your problems? Now that takes balls.

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