Men Break Down the Cost of Masculinity and Stigma

Content Warning: Discussion of suicide.

Psychology student and vlogger LikeKristen uses her YouTube channel to talk about her own experiences with mental health issues, but recently she turned the camera over to three of her friends to cover an experience she can’t speak on: the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. In this video, Paul Roth, Ryan Barnes and Chris Bullock open up about their own mental health issues and the stigma they’ve encountered.

Mental health issues affect people of all genders, and it’s important that we all receive whatever help we need. Stigma is one of the factors that keeps us from getting that help, and it hits a lot of men hard.

Traditional masculine norms are partly to blame. That isn’t just anecdotal. A recent study by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington found that men who adhered to societal masculine norms were more likely to struggle with social functioning and mental health issues, and were less likely to seek psychological help.

The researchers analysed 78 existing studies with almost 20,000 participants using the Conformity to Masculine Norms Inventory-94, developed in 2003. It divides traditional masculine norms into 11 dimensions: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, and disdain for homosexuals. Three of them — self-reliance, playboy and power over women — were most consistently and robustly related to mental health issues. Primacy of work was the only one not significantly related to any of the negative outcomes they tracked.

So masculine norms take a toll, but “negative outcomes” isn’t a phrase that tells us much. For something more tangible, we can look to statistics shared by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Men dying by suicide 3.5 times more often than women is a tangible, devastating impact.

It’s dangerous to go alone. We say it a lot, and it’s true. Self-reliance may be still be seen as a vaunted trait for men, but it gets in the way of talking to people or reaching out for help. The cost of that silence is much too high.

Norms only exist because we perpetuate them. Whether we overcome them by fighting stigma, create an environment where it’s okay to set them aside, or challenge ourselves to work past them for our own health, we’re making a better, healthier society for everyone. With this video, Paul Roth, Ryan Barnes and Chris Bullock are pushing back against the deadly idea that men must be self-reliant at any cost. That’s a great example to follow.