“Man Up”: A Case for Positive Masculinity

The American Psychological Association’s guidelines delineate that traditional masculinity has been proven to limit males’ psychological development and negatively impact their mental health. The guidelines identify that the traits most closely linked to mental health problems were ‘playboy behaviour’ or ‘sexual promiscuity’. The guidelines support encouraging positive aspects of ‘traditional masculinity’, such as courage and leadership, and discarding traits such as violence and sexism, while noting that the vast majority of men are not violent. Elements of hegemonic (traditional) masculinity are negatively associated with helpseeking: these are primarily those that relate to the ability to be emotionally expressive or to show vulnerability and they have been suggested as having a particularly negative impact on formal mental health help-seeking. These elements are also related to greater mental health stigma and a desire to mask mental health concerns to peers for fear of losing social status, especially within groups of younger men and in communities of men where masculinity is observed  at close quarters. Traits of so-called ‘traditional masculinity’, like suppressing emotions and masking distress, often start early in life and have been linked to less willingness by boys and men to seek help, more risk-taking and aggression — possibly harming themselves and those with whom they interact. However, at present, a lot of mental health promoters have been attempting to manipulate the use of masculinity in a way by which men are encouraged to seek help.  Aspects of hegemonic masculinity such as autonomy and control have been used to deal with emotional as well as psychological health concerns and has been harnessed well by practitioners to make help-seeking part of assertive and positive decision making. ‘Fatherly’ lists the 11 aspects of masculinity, of the 79 generally identified,  that can be employed in order to promote male mental health care and shirk the phenomenon of ‘toxic masculinity’; some of these are –  male self-reliance, the worker-provider tradition of men, men’s respect for women, male courage, daring, risk-taking, the group orientation of men and boys, male forms of service, men’s use of humor, and male heroism. Furthermore, APAs study finds that using male-oriented, action-focused linguistics are more effective in promoting mental health among men in comparison to the employment of traditional communicative tactics.

Since our topic is essentially investigating the impact of traditional, toxic masculinity on the male mental health, I think it might be interesting to look at instances where masculinity has been positively drawn on to promote mental wellbeing within men.

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