Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, I came across this compelling post shared to multiple Instagram stories. It was titled, “So you want to talk about destigmatizing men’s mental health *with Kenny Stills*.
This post was eye catching because it was certainly one that I have never seen. In this post, Kenny Stills, Houston Texans National Football League player known for his social activism, details his journey with mental health and how it all began.
“I really started to focus on my mental health in 2016. I started working through my childhood traumas as well as dealing with negativity,” he wrote.
“I don’t remember talking much about feelings and emotions growing up. It was understood that boys were “tough” and that we didn’t cry,” Stiles added.
I can attest that I have seen this toxicity spread from generation to generation in and outside of my household. I’ve seen young boys not even at the tender age of 5 years old silenced and be told “stop all that crying, you’re little man,” and grown men stand with a stone face in moments they are at their lowest.
While boys, young and older men I encounter have this unspoken mantra that “Real men don’t cry, we make it happen,” I’ve always wondered, who told you that you can’t cry?
Throughout history, it has been evident that there is a double standard and stigma as it pertains to the treatment of emotions, mannerism and the existence or non-existence of mental health.
Girls are supposed to be soft, sensitive, and seen as dramatic or over emotional, while boys are supposed to be tough, guarded, and nonchalant as things begin to fall apart around them. None of this is to be true and it is not normal as a human being to be subjected to such harsh expectations of acting as a non emotional machine.
It is unrealistic to expect men to go their entire life holding in their emotions out of fear of being scrutinized by the other. Mental illnesses exist and as recorded by Mental Health America, “Roughly 6 million men suffer from depression every year. It’s also reported that men die by suicide at almost 4x the rate as women.”
The post also detailed myths that are passed around to men as reasons to not seek help in times of need. One being, “Men should be able to control emotions.” Has anyone ever considered that personality and mood disorders exist and can cause men, women or children to have no control over them?
We are not living in the time where we no longer have the access to information and resources at our fingertips, we can no longer ignore this plague that is sweeping the nation.
One of the many reasons I am proud of my “Gen Z” generation and the immediate after us, is that we are the generations that brake generational curses and barriers that are carried out by society, including toxic masculinity.
Society has a love-hate relationship with social media but one thing about it, it is giving people the courage to normalize and support men opening up. We are making progress but there’s a long way to go.
Mental health and mental illnesses are real. Being a man doesn’t make you exempt nor does it make you weak.