Why Do Men Not Talk About Feelings?
Updated: May 17
Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, according to C.A.L.M - this is the biggest killer in men over 45 in the U.K. There are very few safe spaces for men to explore vulnerability. I would like to ask you to think for a moment and name a place where men can connect to feelings that go beyond small talk and the pub? Some people may consider football to be small talk but the subtext reveals there is a lot being communicated between men.
Football is a form of emotional self-expression, following football can lead to a shared sense of hope or grief. In a recent Mental Health Awareness programme on BBC Sport, dialogue revolved around footballers exploring mental health and most of the men admitted crying in front of their father was not acceptable. When men express vulnerability this can result in their partner, friends or employer finding it difficult to know how to support appropriately. Social conditioning and a need to adhere to stereotypes can lead to unconsciously adding to feelings of rejection or humiliation because they simply need to “man up!”
The impact of parenting, culture and stigma associated with expressing vulnerability is compounded by concerns over money, body image, hair loss or performance anxiety. With no one to share these worries it can lead to depression, shame, addiction or bouts of aggression. Another barrier is that counselling is perceived as a white, middle-class, female profession – "tea and sympathy." It takes courage, trust and motivation to enter the therapy space. Often self-care rituals that are marketed towards women like spa days, massages or attending yoga are neglected because they not being perceived as manly. There are rigid roles projected onto men and it is shocking that 84 men a week in the UK commit suicide due to lack of emotional literacy and increased sense of isolation.
Where can men go for support?
One insight talking to male colleagues is the connection they have with their barber, I have heard some men will travel or wait for up to an hour for a 15 minute cut as here they can relax and have a sense of belonging.
Another learning curve for us all is to really listen or notice if a brother, work colleague, friend is upset and try not to fix or give advice – a little empathy can make a person feel that they are not alone.
Be aware of language, phrases that dehumanise or objectify men such as "tall, dark and handsome" or to "man up".
Don't like football or are passionate about something else, start your own men's group on Meet Up, Eventbrite or explore what options are out there to go and connect.
Book in for a session: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading :
Dr Robert Glover's book No More Mr.Nice Guy
Ted Talk - Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability
A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health
Campaign Against Living Miserably C.A.L.M
Check out - Black, African and Asian Therapy Network have videos addressing issues regarding Black Men coming to therapy
Visual guide from The Wellcome Collection - How men and mental health has evolved
Dope Black Dads - changing the narrative around black fathers.
James Acaster - talks about his battle with mental health