By Sean Leonard
On April 7, the “Man Up and Talk About It” forum provided a 90-minute dialogue for students to discuss men’s mental health, stigmas surrounding the topic and what society can do to address these issues impacting the campus community. The event was presented by Student Government (SG), Delta Epsilon Psi, Lambda Theta Phi, Lambda Upsilon Lambda (LUL), Men of Excellence, Phi Alpha Delta and co-sponsored by nine other student organizations.
Santiago Salinas, sophomore public health major and head senator for the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science, said that men’s mental health is his area of focus for his major as both a societal and public health issue.
“In the United States, men are actually four times as likely to commit suicide than women due to lack of access to mental health issues,” Salinas said.
Salinas also said that in mental health professions, there is a lack of male representation, which can make it hard for women in the field to fully relate to their male patients.
“According to the CDC, [the ratio of women to men in mental health professions is 3 to 1], which is not bad, but it just shows that more women are pushed towards mental health because it’s seen as a more maternal role,” Salinas said. “Men are pushed more to physical health, such as being surgeons or cardiologists or anything that deals with the actual physical body.”
Junior Mahjustice Murphy agreed with Salinas, but said men’s mental health is more related to societal issues in the U.S.
Murphy is a junior interactive multimedia major and the programming chair for La Unidad Latina, and he said the lack of emphasis on men’s mental health has become a crisis.
“I see this nation to be full of fragmented societies. And where I come from, there’s half of the town full of well-established people who have structured families and better support systems, whereas there are other people who suffer from the lack of the support systems,” Murphy said. “It’s definitely systematic, and there are people who grew up not having to recognize that that has been implemented in certain societies because they just don’t have to worry about it.”
Another misconception addressed during the discussion was that men should be able to control their feelings and deal with personal struggles on their own. Salinas said this is problematic because both men and women can have their emotions overtake them, and not feeling comfortable talking about it will only make the situation worse.
“Speaking from my experience, I definitely have acted more on emotion than logic. Sometimes I felt very out of control, but the fact that you’re not allowed to ask for help for this is only inviting more…It’s harmful because it doesn’t help them get better,” Salinas said.
The dialogue also included common scenarios and what to do to help if a friend is potentially suicidal. One scenario described a friend home from winter break who sleeps nearly all day and spends all of his time eating junk food. Eventually, the friend questions whether or not the world would be better off without him. For situations like this, Salinas said it is actually not helpful to tell this friend not to take their own life.
“While the intention may be good, it’s actually very problematic because they think they don’t have anything at all, and they actually do believe that the world will be better off without them or that no one will miss them if they’re gone,” Salinas said.
Instead of telling them what to do or what not to do, Salinas said it is important to listen and give your friend an opportunity to explain how he is feeling. He said this makes the friend feel heard, and it prevents you from projecting your own feelings onto your friend in need.
The students in the discussion also addressed how stigmas influence male mental health and what everyone can do to break away from them. Junior biology major Alekhya Madiraju is the SG Vice President for ?Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and said there is a perceived female gaze on men that can pressure men to behave a certain way, according to what people believe it means to be a man in a relationship.
“There’s this idea that they should be the protector, the provider, and that creates a lot of pressure for a lot of men. And I think that being cognizant of that dynamic can also put a lot of pressure because there’s this perceived expectation of what being manly is,” Madiraju said.
“There’s this idea that there’s a way to act gay, and that’s a more feminized perspective of how you should be behaving, and that’s seen as negative and that it’s not okay to act that way. Then you have all these emotions like crying or seeking out help, and those are all feminized and have a negative stigma on them,” Madiraju said. “So I think those are two important things to keep in mind when thinking about what it means to be a man. And why is it bad to have those feminine types of emotions or feminine types of like idiosyncrasies?”