Masculine Gender Socialization in Psychology
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
What is Masculine Gender Socialization? What is the silent epidemic? How do these topics relate to suicide? These are the three main questions that I will be focusing on and address in my Catalyst Project. Gender Socialization is a term that refers to a construct in which we, as a society, teach young children attitudes and behaviors that correspond with their given gender. For example, Feminine Gender Socialization could refer to a mother or teaching telling her daughter that she could not wear a suit because it was considered “manly” or “only for boys”. Now how does this relate to psychology? Because those constructs and attitudes that we teach to young men have detrimental effects on their psychology and thoughts on depression. Throughout the world, men commit suicides as much as 7x more than women, yet it is rarely talked about, thus called a “silent epidemic”. These numbers increase year after year, and I wanted to know why.
I had always known that there were differences between men and women, but I did not know how profound those differences manifested. Everyone experiences depression and self-harm differently, typically, however, men self-harm and show their depression in different ways than women. Once I learned this, I wanted to know why, why do men and women have such different experiences with mental illness? This led me to do even more research and found that it has to do with the phrase “masculine gender socialization”. Men typically feel social pressures to be stoic and display their feelings violently, or through substance abuse, and different things affect men more profoundly. One example is the loss of a job, or unemployment which has a much more profound effect on men, because they feel like they are not only letting themselves down but their families.
Men and women have many differences when it comes to psychology. In the media men are often shown very stoically, they have little emotions and rarely cry, which in reality is not what should occur. The idea and portrayal of men this way is simply another example of masculine gender socialization. Men try to replicate what they see and are told and try to hide their emotions. We are also rarely shown men who are depressed, properly address their emotions; as they are typically shown drinking, or getting into fights, or driving too fast, and in turn, men replicate these actions. Men are also more likely to be affected by different things. For example, losing a job is typically more traumatic for a man because they usually not only feel like they lost a job but respect and their ability to support their family. Men are also more likely to be affected by losing a personal relationship like a marriage. This can be attributed to the fact that men not only feel like they failed their marriage but their role as men in society. Women can also develop different types of depression that men cannot, which are listed below. Women are also twice as likely to develop/be diagnosed with depression. While both men and women can exhibit the self-harm behaviors below they are generally exhibited more by one gender.
It is important to always know that you are as likely, that someone has experienced similar thoughts and feelings and has gotten through it. I have found a few personal stories of men who have been or have known men suffering from depression and/or suicidal tendencies. Even though many men think that talking about their depression is considered “unmanly”, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone, no matter their gender, can experience depression.
“My daily routine was shot. I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I got up because the dog had to be walked and my wife needed to go to work. The day would go by and I didn’t know where it went. I wanted to get back to normal. I just wanted to be myself again.”- Jimmy Brown, Firefighter
“I lost interest with the kids and doing things that we used to do . . . they’d ask their mother, ‘Why is Daddy not getting up and not wanting to do anything with us?’ ‘Did we do anything?’ They didn’t do anything to me. I just didn’t want to do anything.” – Rene Ruballo, Police Officer
“It affects the way you think. It affects the way you feel. It affects the way you love . . . It’s just a blanket that covers everything . . . and it’s one that’s just so asphyxiating. And at times you just say it’s enough already. It just feels like enough.” – Steve Lappen, Writer
“My Dad committed suicide three years later, on the 25th October, 2001. He was incredibly proud, he was the life of the party and he meant the world to so many people. But he didn’t know how to ask for help, and he didn’t know how to accept help.
I have been lucky enough to inherit a lot of Dad’s gifts. But the most important lesson I have learnt from him is:
Never be too proud to reach out and ask for a hand. It will change your life.” – Dan, Personal Stories (BeyondBlue)
“I hope that by sharing my story, I can show that there is hope and that it is possible to achieve amazing things, even when living with depression.” – Chris, Personal Stories (BeyondBlue)
“My message to others would be that it’s OK to talk about it. It’s important to know that people do get better, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” – Erik Baurdoux, 31
Here is a link to a google doc that has spaces for people to put personal experiences, questions, as well as thoughts/opinions on my project. Please only fill this out if you are comfortable with sharing.
We can still change this status quo! All of this research and all of these numbers are not for nothing! The simple fact that someone is reading this and learning about how we can teach young men proper ways to express their emotion should give you hope. Awareness in this situation, like many, is extremely important. People don’t know that when they tell little boys to “be a man” and “men don’t cry” that they are setting them up for a future with improper channels to express their emotion. When someone says something along those lines simply informs them of the harm that they are doing, no one wants to unwillingly hurt their own child’s psyche. It has been proven time and time again that talking about traumatic experiences and depression are extremely helpful in healing. Even though men have historically been displayed in media showing depression in unhealthy ways, we can still challenge and change the status quo with the next generation.
When I started this project I had a major question that I thought needed answering, why do men commit suicide more than women? The answer I got had many different levels and sublevels that I hope I addressed in this project, but I realized that I needed to do something to help. Like I said above, awareness is key and if more people know about this subject, the more people can change the status quo. There are also many amazing organizations that you can donate to who help men suffering from depression all over the world which I have put below:
Organizations that you can donate to:
- Men’s Suicide Prevention Project
- Beyond Blue
- Movember Foundation
Adler, Peter, Dr, and Patti Adler, Dr. “Do Men Self- Injure?” Psychology Today, 23 Sept. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-deviance-society/201109/do-men-self-injure. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
Dan. “Personal Stories: Dan.” BeyondBlue, www.beyondblue.org.au/ connect-with-others/personal-stories/story/dan. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.
Greene, Jonathon D., and Matthew Jakupcak. “Masculinity and Men’s Self-Harm Behaviors: Implications for Non-Suicidal Self- Injury Disorder.” Psychology of Men and Masculinity, vol. 17, no. 2, 2016, pp. 147-55, www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/men-a0039691.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
Lindsay Lee, Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2018) – “Suicide”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/suicide’ [Online Resource]
Men and Depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
Rice-Oxley, Mark. “The Truth About Depression: Six People Speak Out.” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2012, www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/14/ truth-about-depression. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.
“Suicide Statistics.” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
Walton, Alice G. “The Gender Inequality of Suicide: Why Are Men at Such High Risk?” Forbes, 24 Sept. 2012, www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/09/24/the-gender-inequality-of-suicide-why-are-men-at-such-high-risk/#6077c0203ba8. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.
White, Jennifer, Dr, and Dan Bilsker, Dr. “The Silent Epidemic of Male Suicide.” BC Medical Journal, vol. 53, Dec. 2011, pp. 529-34, www.bcmj.org/articles/silent-epidemic-male-suicide. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.