At the onset of puberty when I was 13 my father had a series of talks with me, one statement always stood out, “You are a man.” As time passed by, I came to the realization that there are certain things that allegedly men do not do. Men do not cry, men do not make compromises especially with women, a man’s life without honour is not worth living and so on. I found some traditional constructs of masculinity to be toxic. While some traits are useful in life, there are others that need to be dumped in the bin of history. According to Stephen Marche put it, “Men’s gender problems cause them a lot of suffering.”
There is a massively striking suicide rate in the middle age bracket for men. This generation has had so much dialogue about women and how we can change societal stereotypes that history so wrongly imposed on them that we need to change, however in the same vein society has largely ignored the woes of men. Most times when a man commits suicide, it is considered a tragedy and every one wishes they saw the signs and yet simultaneously society has taught us to avoid and dismiss a man who is suicidal or has suicidal thoughts as we claim they will not do it and consider them cowards. Due to modern communication dynamics, we live in a world where one can have so many friends and people around them yet feel lonely, this lack of meaningful relationships has sent many into self-destruction mode.
Divorce or an end to an intimate relationship
It’s worthwhile to look into one of life situations that can lead to men’s suicidal thoughts, completion and how society’s constructed masculinity contributes to it ,Divorce or an end to any serious intimate relationship. This is one of the less discussed causes of suicide. However, studies show that 42 % of all suicides are related to relationships and more so marital relationships. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that there is a higher risk of suicide among divorced persons. While it is true that marriage or an intimate relationship offers the best protection from suicide because it provides social integration and reduces isolation, once broken, they have a strong impact on mental health.
Relationship breakdown/ divorce constitutes a major risk factor for suicide ideation and completion. For men, the changing nature of intimacy leading to loss of honour or emasculation can lead to strong suicidal thoughts.
Loss of honour and approval among fellow men
Traditional constructs of masculinity are more detrimental to men’s mental health due to their perceived inflexibility. If role inflexibility is connected to emotional distress where a man that cries or seeks help is considered unmanly, a mediating factor may be shame and loss of honour among fellow men. Where relationships fail or divorce happens and this enactment of idealised masculinity is compromised a sense of shame may ensue. This consequently triggers the self-destruction mode due to the construct that a life without masculine honour is not worth living.
The Changing nature of intimacy
Recently “pure relationship” is increasingly idealised in modernity with an expectation that committed sexual partners will also be emotionally available and trust worthy. The notion of love conflicts with the normative expectation of men as self-sufficient subjects. Therefore, the quest for the ideal pure relationship will serve to increase existential anger unless men pursue a mindset shift. Therefore, the gendered expectations of men can affect their ability to cope emotionally when relationships fail and are more likely to have a self-destructive reaction.
The above are some of the situations that men go through before suicide or suicidal thoughts ensue. To an extent society’s hegemonic toxic masculinity is to blame. Even in cases of depression, how would a man explain that he is not fine or explain a hollow feeling that he does not know its origin. Over the years we have seen men take their lives because they stood tall to convince the world they were fine yet in actual sense the inside was dying away slowly hence taking their lives; Robin Williams, Avicii, Aaron Hernandez the list is endless.
Historically created notions that a man’s expression of emotions is a weakness and a feminine quality is a haunting ghost from the past. Therefore, the idealised and stereotypes that men cannot show weakness or emotion have to be tarnished if at all this scourge is to be dealt with. To men, do show emotion and do seek help when in need. The idea that discourses of masculinity suggest that the admission of distress, loss and grief can signal weakness and be seen as an expression of female qualities is wrong and needs to be dumped to the history bin. Traditional constructs of hegemonic masculinity are more detrimental to the men’s mental health and halt the pursuit to a constructive life. Let us work to end hegemonic masculinity to reduce the rate of suicide among men for a better, meaningful and peaceful living.