In the United States, the month of June is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. However, men’s mental health often gets overlooked in part due to the stigma around it. The societal ideal of a man is strong, stoic, and supportive; most do not see men as vulnerable. When a man is open about his feelings, many consider it a weakness or a negative attribute. However, I am here to tell you that it is ok to not be ok. If you are struggling, it is ok to talk about how you are feeling and seek help.
I myself have struggled with anxiety and depression for quite a while. When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an auto-immune skin condition that causes hair loss. This condition caused me to shelter my emotions and hold everything in, as I covered up my hair loss with hats and other treatments nearly every day of my life. Several years later, I shaved my head and seemed to take control of the situation, but my journey didn’t end there. Although I was no longer hiding my alopecia, it still affected my daily life and continues to do so. Something I have learned about myself is that when I am struggling with something, I need to talk about it. Holding in your emotions is easy, but allowing yourself to talk things out and express how you feel is vital to your mental health.
Life has dragged me through the mud more times than I count on my two hands, but that is ok. In tough situations, you may experience emotions that you can’t explain, and that isn’t uncommon. Everyone feels sad, angry, and hopeless at times, and the first step to feeling better is understanding that those feelings are normal, and if you are a man, it is more than ok to feel your feelings. There is societal pressure around men to always appear strong, and this further fuels the stigma around men’s mental health. Being strong and stoic are great characteristics, but it is impossible and detrimental to constantly appear this way.
It is of utmost importance that men understand the normalcy around emotions. This past year, two of my grandparents and my great-aunt passed away. I felt extremely overwhelmed, as I was in the midst of my sophomore year of college and had to deal with classes and searching for a job at the same time. It felt unfeasible to keep going and get my work done, yet that was exactly how I accomplished the tasks at hand. Realizing that I wasn’t ok helped me get out of the mud. It is important to prioritize taking time for yourself, even when you have other things to accomplish. At the end of the day, your mental health is far more important than math homework or a science test. People may try and tear you down for “not being manly enough”, but you need to take care of yourself regardless of what people say and what obstacles are thrown at you.
Being a man and being vulnerable is ok. There is nothing wrong with being sad. Even on the darkest days, the sun is still there, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always a way up. I will leave you with a quote my best friend taught me growing up:
“While life might throw you challenges, those challenges are just speed bumps, not roadblocks.”
Let yourself slow down for the speed bumps, but keep going and keep being the amazing person you are.