This Is My Story: Stigma Surrounding Boys In Mental Health
According to Pascack Valley’s Student Family Resource Liaison Steven Myers, one-fourth of students who visit the wellness center are males. Myers said the number should be even with females.
Recently, The Smoke Signal published eight recounts of PV students’ stories of their struggles with mental health. Among these articles, there were no boys that came forward to tell their stories.
“It is considered more culturally acceptable for girls to talk more about the way that they feel,” said Dana Weir, a therapist from Specialized Therapy in Ramsey. “As for guys, if they have a problem with each other, they easily get over it.”
Weir said there is not set reason as for why boys do not usually speak out about their mental health. She believes it is caused from the nature of girls versus boys, especially at the teenage age.
“Girls are more open and they are taught from an early age that it is okay for them to talk openly,” Weir said. “That’s what I would say from my own experience that I see.”
She said that it is easier for boys to say “you piss me off” rather than “you hurt my feelings.” She compared this anger to a cake, whereas anger is just the frosting on the outside, but once it is cut into, there are many different layers as for how someone is feeling.
“Society accepts [“you piss me off”] more than [“you hurt my feelings”],” Weir said.
Weir believes that when people open up about their problems, it is sometimes seen as a weakness. Under toxic masculinity, it is harder for boys to admit they are weak when they are raised their whole life to be strong.
According to The New York Times, toxic masculinity is considered to be traditional normatives that boys are supposed to fit. For example, these norms are “suppressing emotions or making distress, maintained an appearance of hardness, and violence as an indicator of power.”
To break these traditional norms, Weir emphasized that it is important to start talking about opening up and discussing feelings from an early age with both girls and boys.
“I think if boys got more of a message that it is okay to talk differently than “locker room talk,” they would be more comfortable showing the way they truly feel,” Weir said.
Similarly, Myers said that it is important to speak up about how you are feeling.
“When managing stress, it is important to alleviate it by having a community of people to reach out to like a therapist or a friend,” Myers said. “It’s healthy to talk about your problems.”