Men are generally perceived by society to be strong and devoid of significant emotional needs.Although this belief is deeply rooted, it is more a myth than truth. Over the years, numerousstudies have highlighted the necessity of addressing men’s health and emotional needs distinctly.
It is noteworthy that in India, the concept of a “lady doctor” exists, while the equivalent formen, a “male doctor” is absent. This discrepancy suggests an unequal focus on women’s needscompared to men.
The roles of men and women in families have transformed globally over the past 3-4 decades.However, the approach to gender-related health has not kept pace with these changes. There is asignificant imbalance between the evolving roles of men and women in society and the disparate approaches to meeting their health needs. Scientifically, it is established that both men and women have masculine and femininehormones, although the proportions vary by gender. Consequently, the emotional needs ofindividuals differ based on the levels of these hormones. Emotions, as anaspect of the mind, have not been adequately addressed in both genders. Men, in particular, oftensuffer due to the societal expectation that they should be emotionally strong.
Society often holds beliefs that men should be more energetic, powerful, resilient, and displayminimal emotion in times of adversity. Despite gender-based differences in mental functions,men are perceived to have a more logical mind, while women are considered to be moreemotional. Although women are more commonly associated with emotional disorders, asignificant number of men also experience these issues. Notably, men have higher rates ofcompleted suicides compared to women.
A concerning trend is the increasing rate of infertility, with men contributing significantly to this issue. It is not uncommon to find infertile couples where male factors, such as low sperm count, and dysfunctional, or non-functional sperm, are primary causes. The emotional stress experienced by men during this process is rarely addressed. Men and women undergoing similar challenges have their needs approached and handled differently.
Considering these factors, it is imperative to address men’s health issues, particularly their emotional well-being, as comprehensively as has been done with women’s health over the past several years.
Parents aim to raise their sons as heroes, setting the stage for ingrained gender roles. Society expects men to embody traits like strength, protection, and sensitivity to support others while not seeking support themselves. A prevalent narrative teaches boys not to cry and to remain strong at all times, leading to the suppression of their emotions, which can later surface in their behaviour. Men can fall victim to societal expectations, even though the nature of exploitation they face may differ from that of women. There was a recent case of a man contemplating suicide due to false allegations by a friend’s wife, and he struggled to find support or prove his innocence. Men are often conditioned to hide their emotions for fear of appearing weak, and they face potential backlash for expressing themselves. Despite shared emotions between men and women, men are led to believe that showing their feelings contradicts their male identity. This pressure forces them to adopt stereotypical masculine behaviour.
It’s crucial to recognise that suppressed emotions find outlets in various, often unhealthy ways. Men experiencing sadness or depression may manifest their pain through anger and aggression rather than openly expressing their feelings. Bottling up emotions intensifies them, leading to overreactions in unrelated situations. The consequences can vary, including sleep disturbances, binge eating, substance abuse, gaming addiction, high blood pressure, stress, displaced emotions, and impulsive reactions. For instance, a husband might unfairly direct anger at his wife or children. Individuals need to express their emotions openly to avoid these issues and lead more peaceful lives.
(Dr Raghu K is a psychiatrist while Sumalatha Vasudeva is a psychologist.)
(Published 11 November 2023, 21:49 IST)