Men’s Struggle with Mental Health

How do men ask for help? 

It’s okay to be vulnerable, that is a phrase that I have heard many times. It’s okay to ask for help, that’s a phrase that a lot of men hear in 2023, but how does a man ask for help or even show any type of vulnerability, when growing up we are taught to be the strong, quiet type?

The society that many men, including myself, grew up in, taught us that talking about our feelings is unmanly; this type of upbringing has led to a lot of men refusing to seek help even when some men really do need that type of help.

This is especially true for men that go to college. College is a naturally stressful environment because of the countless hours studying and time management. These are skills that any student needs to learn, especially for people that work a job while going to school and maintaining a social life.

The question then becomes how do people cope with all this stress? For some, this process is quite easy, but for others it can quickly take a toll on one’s mental health. With college there comes expectations and with those expectations there comes a lot of second guessing, self-doubt and dare I say it, a breakdown if someone doesn’t properly take care of themselves. For woman it is easy to ask for help, but for men that is a different story.

Men have always been seen as the protector; this has dated back to when people were still living in caves. However, in that span of time, what makes a man a man has been defined  by what we now see as toxic masculinity. Growing up in the early 2000’s, I was taught that men are tough and disciplined. One thing that I learned as a child is that if a man cried, he was weak, if a man asked for help, he was weak, and most importantly if a man didn’t enjoy stereotypically masculine interest such as sports or hunting or G.I Joe then he was considered gay, feminine or that there was just something wrong with him.

It is because of those stereotypes that for the longest time I pretended to show interest in football instead of Harry Potter, that I preferred to watch The Lord of the Rings instead of joining the other boys in the neighborhood. Many people wondered what was wrong with me and the doctors would want to say that these interests are because I have Aspergers Syndrome when in truth I just wanted to do what interested me.

The experiences that I had growing up led me to create a wall around myself where I portrayed a version of myself that did enjoy the stereotypical manly interests. That has done a lot of harm to my mental health because I was always afraid that no one would like the real me. Sadly, to this day I still struggle with that fear of not being accepted because of my nerdier interests and I am not the only one.

Since men are taught to never show emotion, a lot of them refuse to accept that it is okay to act like a kid in a candy store when something interests them. Instead of not asking for help, men should ask for help from someone if they truly need it. I could have saved myself a lot of pain on campus last year if I would have had the courage to understand that sometimes even a man needs a break.

If I had been more open with people that I was struggling with school, I wouldn’t have suffered as badly as I did. It wasn’t until I got home, and I finally had a chance to admit to myself that yes, I am a man, but I need help, that I was truly able to start healing.

I’m not alone in my struggle for understanding that men have just as much of a right to ask for help. In fact, the stigma surrounding men showing weakness and vulnerability has led to many men turning to suicide. If you are a man and you are having a hard time with school or are struggling with your mental health, then please have the courage to do what took me so long to do, and ask for help. It doesn’t have to be help from a therapist, reach out to your friends or family; this small act of saying ‘I need help’ to your loved ones can not only save you from a mental breakdown, but it can also help you handle the stress of college.