Embracing Strength: A Call to Action for Men’s Mental Health

By Lyndsay Babcock
Principal Psychologist and Director of The Self Centre Psychology

We often hear that men should “open up” and “be vulnerable,” but what does that really mean in a world that’s constantly pushing men to their limits? Men’s mental health isn’t just about combating depression or anxiety; it’s about redefining what it means to live a balanced, meaningful life in the modern age.

The Myth of Perpetual Strength

There’s a pervasive myth that men need to be perpetually strong. Strength is often equated with silence, with enduring hardships without flinching. But this concept of strength is not only outdated; it’s harmful. True strength lies in acknowledging our limits, in recognizing that we are not machines but humans with a complex array of emotions and needs.

Consider the daily pressures: the expectation to excel at work, to provide for a family, to maintain friendships, and to stay physically fit. These demands create a relentless pace that leaves little room for self-reflection or emotional health. Men are often taught to ignore their own needs to meet these external demands, leading to a life that is out of balance and, ultimately, unsustainable.

Rethinking Resilience

Resilience isn’t just about bouncing back from adversity; it’s about adapting to change and finding a sustainable way to navigate life’s challenges. For men, this means redefining resilience to include emotional awareness and self-care.

So, what is Self-Care for Men?

Self-care for men involves prioritizing mental and physical well-being through activities that foster relaxation, self-awareness, and personal growth. This can include practices like engaging in creativity, regular exercise, mindfulness or meditation, and seeking emotional support when needed. It’s also about recognizing the importance of rest, healthy boundaries, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and fulfillment.

The Role of Creativity and Play

One often overlooked aspect of mental health is the importance of creativity and play. Men are frequently caught in the grind, their lives reduced to a series of tasks and responsibilities. But what if we saw play and creativity as essential components of mental health?

Engaging in creative activities—whether it’s painting, writing, playing music, or building something with your hands—can be incredibly therapeutic. These activities offer a way to express emotions that might be difficult to articulate otherwise. They also provide a break from the relentless pace of daily life, allowing for moments of joy and relaxation.

Mind-Body Connection

The connection between physical activity and mental health is profound. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, which can help combat feelings of depression and anxiety. Additionally, engaging in physical activity outdoors enhances this effect, as exposure to natural light and fresh air further boosts mood and reduces stress.

Challenging Traditional Masculinity

Traditional masculinity often leaves little room for vulnerability or emotional expression. But challenging these norms doesn’t mean abandoning all aspects of masculinity; it means expanding our understanding of what it means to be a man.

Men can be strong and compassionate, resilient and open-hearted. It’s about integrating these qualities rather than seeing them as mutually exclusive. This shift in perspective can lead to healthier relationships, both with others and with oneself.

Creating a New Narrative

The narrative around men’s mental health needs to change. It’s not just about preventing crises but about fostering a deeper sense of well-being.

This involves:

Embracing Emotional Literacy: Teaching men to recognize and articulate their emotions from a young age through education, parenting, and community support.

Valuing Rest and Recovery: Understanding that rest is not a luxury but a necessity. Encouraging practices that promote mental and physical recovery can lead to more balanced lives.

Building Community: Creating spaces where men can connect authentically through support groups, social clubs, or community events focused on mental health.

Promoting Professional Help: Normalizing therapy and other forms of professional support as proactive measures rather than last resorts.

Men’s mental health is a complex issue that requires a fresh perspective. It’s about more than just “opening up”; it’s about creating a life that allows for balance, creativity, and emotional depth.

By challenging outdated notions of masculinity and embracing a more holistic approach to well-being, we can build a society where men are not only surviving but thriving.

Let’s start the conversation and keep it going, not just for the sake of the men we care about, but for the health of our entire community.