Of all my Uber rides in the past, there’s one that still lingers. One that I’ll never forget because it left

such an indelible mark. I met this wonderful driver who was taking me to the airport. The ride there is

long and there’s massive traffic. It was only natural that we began speaking. We talked about many

things before we landed on the mental health conversation. I’m not sure how but here we were talking

about men and mental health.

This driver told me about 3 of his friends who had died by suicide in the past year. I could hear the pain

in his voice as he spoke of the last friend who had just died. He, the friend, was always so jovial,

motivated, and quite accomplished. On the surface, he was someone who looked like he had it all

together. Unbeknownst to everyone, he was struggling from severe depression as indicated on his

suicide note. The driver was so sad recalling this lovely friendship that he had just lost.

His telling me about it was not by chance though. He was on a mission to talk to people about men’s

mental health and why it’s important to break the stigma and seek help. I admired him for his courage

to shine a light on a topic that most men tiptoe around. I prayed that everyone who heard about this

was receptive to it and took a mental note to be the change that’s needed. Allow me to build on this

fateful conversation I had with the Uber driver about men’s mental health.

It’s Movember. November but with a twist! Movember is all about advocating for men’s health around

the areas of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, physical inactivity, and poor mental health. The latter is

what we will focus on but please dear men, take your physical health seriously. Go and get screened for

cancer because it could happen to anyone.

In Movember, men grow their moustache (hence the “mo”) throughout the month – that’s up to you

but you can do it. When people, especially men, ask you why your beard is overgrown, talk to them

about the pertinent issues about men’s health.

In a society made up of gender roles, standards, and expectations, men (not all) are brought up to be

“macho”. They were taught as young boys not to show emotion or cry because it’s weakness. They then

grew up suppressing these emotions because they didn’t want to come off as weak, sensitive, soft, or

defeated. And it’s not just the men who perpetuate this stereotype, the women were also socialized to

hold men to that standard. What we then have is a society of emotionally vulnerable men who lack safe

spaces to talk about what they’re going through. The result is poor mental health, especially depression,

which in severe cases turns into suicide.

“Macho-ism” or exaggerated masculinity is harmful because it shows up as;

The need to prove masculinity by adopting avoidant or violent behavior as coping methods and

ways of dealing with problems. A lack of basic compassion, empathy, emotional intelligence, and

understanding may be the cause of this.

Suffering in silence and having internal wars with yourself because you’re too scared of

judgment and shame. You may develop feelings of anxiety, depression, inadequacy, insecurity,

and inferiority.

Dysfunction in families and other relationships grows to become generational cycles of abuse

and brokenness. When men pass on their idea to their sons and younger men that masculinity is

not about showing emotion, the cycle never ends.

Mental Health America reports the following statistics;

6 million men are affected by depression each year which mostly goes undiagnosed. 70% of the

time, therapists miss depression in men. Men are more likely to report feelings of fatigue,

irritability, loss of interest in work and hobbies rather than feelings of sadness or worthlessness.

3 million men have a panic disorder. 90% of Schizophrenics are men.

Men die by suicide 4 times more than women – . of people who died of suicide in 2010 were

men.

Data from Men’s mental health forum reports that;

Nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety.

About 6 of every 10 men experience at least one trauma in their lives.

49% of men feel more depressed than they admit.

Statistics are more than just numbers on a report. We must remember that they represent the actual

lives of men living with mental health problems. Men who may think and feel like they are the minority

because they’re struggling while in essence, so many are suffering just like them.

Men who have been taught that speaking up about it is a feminine thing to do and they should simply

“man up”. In a world where men die 4 times more by suicide than women, we need to recognize that

the problem is deeply rooted in our belief systems. We don’t need to have more performative

masculinity whose agenda is to do whatever it takes to appear “manly.” That’s not the solution.

It all starts with conversations like this. When we identify where the problem is, we can solve it

collectively. We easily forget that we’re all having a human experience and it’s not always a pleasant

one. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you aren’t spared from some harsh realities that exist so why

then is the standard different when it comes to coping and dealing?

This Movember calls, for all of us to first of all unlearn, what men’s mental health should look like ,then

learn how we can create safer spaces in our communities that encourage authenticity, compassion,

empathy, and vulnerability. All of which require a great deal of strength to practice. All of which are

necessary human virtues and if we extend them to each other then we’ll have a mentally healthier

society. One that doesn’t shun or shame men’s mental health. We, at Langniappe Therapy, are

committed to changing the narrative surrounding men’s mental health.