Seeking therapy for mental issues is normal and healthy. But……. only for females. If a man should seek support because of issues relating to mental health, he is considered weak or feminine. Because of social stigma, if men portray any effeminate qualities, they will be cast one side as if we still live in the bumboclaat stone ages. And because of this stigma of what men should do and should not do, they do not receive the mental health treatment they deserve.
In a study published by the Journal of Counselling Psychology, conformity to masculine norms was significantly and unfavorably associated with mental health and psychological help-seeking. Society demands that the ideal man should be tough, independent and unemotional, this prevents men from actually seeking help. They feel safer keeping their feelings bottled up inside because this is bumboclaat safer than to tell someone who will only laugh at them or say “hush man nuh cry” or “deal with it”.
There are several mental health symptoms:
- Excessive anger
- violence and hostility
- mood swings
- feeling sad or down
Guess which of the symptoms men will portray most?
Anger because that is the symptom they can relate to the most.
They do not know what they are feeling and from the beginning of time, they have been socialized to be emotionless beings. They will act out the negative feelings that they can relate to. An example of this in our Jamaican culture,” if a man disses yuh and yuh bumboclaat tek it, yuh weak”. To restore the dignity he lost, he must “diss him back”. This usually comes in the form of violence which is led on by anger.
Even with the facts presented, Jamaicans will agree that there is no stigma surrounding men and mental illness. I have been in the presence of several individuals who have uttered the words ” Man ave feelings?” or ” yah woman bredda? Only woman have feelings”. These are the words that have been used from generations to view voicing or experiencing emotions to be seen as weak. Mothers shame their sons if they behave too feminine or even cry. This is where conditioning begins and is nurtured into long-ingrained beliefs that become hard to reverse or challenge. This stigma against men and mental illness is a perfect example of nature vs. nurture.
We can end the stigma surrounding men seeking therapy. It starts with us, the females. We put so much pressure on men to be strong and protective that they fear to seek help because they do not want to be seen as weak or we think that they should have “it together”. Imagine your husband telling you he needs bumboclaat help because he thinks he is depressed or hears voices in his head. You would probably start looking at him differently and thinking he is weak or mad. Society can start speaking about the process and benefits of therapy openly. A National Institute of Mental Health campaign called “Real Men. Real Depression” utilized the real stories of men who were struggling with depression to show men that they were not alone. Personal stories of men from different backgrounds were included in this campaign. The campaign further looked at the language used surrounding mental health.
The language used surrounding therapy can also be changed to be more palatable to men. In a 1992 study in the Journal of Counselling Psychology (Vol 39 No. 2, Pages 240-246) John Robertson, a professor at Kansas State University created two brochures. These brochures were issued to the college students in mechanics and other male dominating areas. Brochure A had more traditional terms while brochure B used terms such as consultation instead of “therapy”. Robertson found that males were more likely to seek assistance who had received brochure B. Now it’s up to us to change the bumboclaat narrative on therapy.
It’s time we all join the fight against mental illness and the social stigma that men should not cry. We are in the bumboclaat 21st century now. We as a society need to start letting our men know that it is okay to cry and speak about their feelings. Because guess what, if you cut mi and I cut yuh we both bleed red.