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The Silent Epidemic; An Investigation into Masculine Gender Socialization and Depression

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.

BACKGROUND:

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.

Lindsay Lee, Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2018) – “Suicide”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/suicide’ [Online Resource]


THE CHALLENGE: 

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. 


THE DIFFERENCES

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.

Men Women
  • More likely to take part in risk-taking behaviors like driving too fast, getting into fights, etc. as a form of self-harm
  • More likely to be more heavily affected by the loss of a job
  • More likely to be affected by the loss of a personal relationship, i.e. Marriage/long term relationship
  • Twice as likely to develop/be diagnosed with depression
  • Biology and hormones are a major cause of depression
  • Can develop depression unique to women
    • Post-Partum Depression
    • Premenstrual Dysphoric Depression

PERSONAL STORIES/EXPERIENCES

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


MESSAGE BOARD

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.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1VWaDxKJEs3Dx27FRk5-BcTw9slGk9Vgpf_wi1Qk_k3E


THE SOLUTION:

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.


WHAT’S NEXT?

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
    • http://www.suicidepreventiontaskforce.org/mensproject
  • Beyond Blue
    • https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/about-our-work/our-work-with-men
  • Movember Foundation
    • https://us.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health

SOURCES CITED:

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.

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COMMENTS: 15
  1. April 26, 2018 by Allison Bunker

    I found this really interesting I have helped to create affinity group conversations on gender socialization cycles at my school, but I was mostly looking at the female side of things and it is really important to think about the ways this also affects men.

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Hi Allison! Before this project, I had also never really thought of the male side of things and found that when I brought it up to my friends many of them had no idea. I think that awareness is key in these situations and can make a real difference.

  2. April 27, 2018 by brendan.sarsfield

    Powerful content, really made an impression – …it might though be worth double checking your photo at the top of your presentation as it didn’t;t load on the times I accessed. You should be able to review and re-edit if needed and update the page – ….. really interesting and informative ! – thanks

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Hi Brendan! I’m glad that I was able to make an impression! The photo at the top of my page is loading for me but I will reload it into my WordPress page, hopefully, it will work then.

  3. April 27, 2018 by Gayatri.Singla

    This is a fascinating topic, and you did a great job organizing your page!

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Thank you!

  4. April 27, 2018 by Ethan.Ash

    This is really insightful content on a topic that is usually very over looked or not talked about in society. I thought the table you had comparing depression between men and women was really interesting, since it showed exactly how / why men are depressed and compared it to women. The personal experiences that you offered were also extremely powerful, and really made the whole project a lot more real. A quick side note is that we can only view and not edit the google doc message board, so you can’t leave comments or experiences on that, but I think you can just fix that in the google doc settings. Overall this was a really powerful and insightful project, and I’m really glad you decided to tackle this problem!

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Hi Ethan! I think that many people don’t realize how depression differs in men and women and it can become very dangerous when you cannot recognize the signs of self-harm in men. I will change the setting on the google doc thank you for telling me!

  5. April 27, 2018 by Sydney

    I love your project! It was definitely very informative and thoughtful. I agree that change media has helped define some of the “manly” characteristics, but I think that the media can also help dramatically shift the conversation. Just a bit of constructive criticism: Maybe include a few more graphics or colors. Overall, I loved your project!

  6. April 28, 2018 by Anna Demopulos

    Wow! That is amazing how twice as likely to develop/be diagnosed with depression. I had no idea that this was the case. Another shocking fact is that men are more likely to be affected by the loss of a personal relationship like a marriage or long term relationship. Great job, Cassidy! You are very right that depression is presented in many different ways, and this is very important to keep in mind when watching out for warning signs.

  7. April 29, 2018 by Alex Martha

    This is a great project that I feel many could relate to, including myself. The part where you claim that the media as defined many of the characteristics that men should have is very true. I also think that some media outlets are trying to change these defined characteristics. I thought the facts were very good and helpful in order to learn about the subject. I would suggest to use more mediums in your projects such as videos and pictures. Overall is was a great project that I think many boys in middle and high school should read.

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Hi Alex! I agree that the media is starting to change the status quo for men, but I do think that they have a long way to go before we have reached a point where young men and boys feel more comfortable expressing emotion. I agree that men in middle and high school should read this or something that tells them that feeling emotion is perfectly normal, and healthy.

  8. April 29, 2018 by Sidney Derzon

    I think this is a really important topic and I’m glad you decided to focus on it. There is defiantly a lot more attention surrounding females and suicide/depression in the media so I think it is important that you focus on males. I did not realize the suicide rate was nearly 7% higher. We actually just had a speaker come to our school and talk about how her son was being more rebellious and drinking and the mom thought her son was just going through a typical teenage phase but he ended up committing suicide. I’m glad more attention is starting to surround this topic and your presentation is a great start!

    • April 30, 2018 by Cassidy.Mott

      Hi Sidney! Like I said awareness is key and many people have no idea that this is the case. Do you by any chance remember the name of your speaker? It may be helpful for further research.

  9. April 30, 2018 by Ella Durbin

    Cassidy,
    I hadn’t really thought about masculinity and mental health problems having correlation before this year and I think it’s really great that you were able to shed light on that connection through your project. I like how you have a very attainable solution rather than something super general. Overall good topic choice and your finished work looks super clean and amazing!!

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