Author: Courtney Smith, Pima Community College
“Man up”. We’ve all heard this. Helpful, isn’t it? Instead of dealing with how you feel in a healthy way, push it down and don’t acknowledge your feelings or the lasting effect they can have on your overall well-being. While men likely hear this all the time, the unhelpful advice spills over to women, too especially older generations, and it’s a prime example of how damaging this mentality can be to our society and how we feel when it comes to our own mental health.
Depression effects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population each year (“Facts and Statistics”). Mental illness is the leading cause of disability in U.S citizens. So why does this topic still bring about panic and shame in those struggling with it? Confronting the idea of mental health can be daunting and all consuming to the point of total disregard, given how society has viewed it for decades.
There has been an emphasis on the importance of mental health in recent history so with that comes the transformation as to how we view it. Depending on your background, “man up” might’ve been something you constantly grew up hearing. Whether it be when you scraped your knee as a child or when you’ve cried as an adult about something deemed “insignificant” by those around you. Pair this mentality with mental health in the modern age and we have a problem.
We should not be told to outright push our emotions and struggles aside for the sake of being seen as strong. There seems to be this connotation that if you are struggling with something mentally, you are weak. This is something most of us have felt at one point or another when it comes to our struggles and how we’re perceived.
If you feel ashamed when it comes to your own mental health struggles, I want you to imagine this – imagine the roles are reversed and someone close to you is going through what you currently are. They confide in you, express how they’re feeling, go in-depth about how this is affecting them, etc. Would you tell them to “man up” and disregard their feelings entirely? I don’t think you would. Instead, you’d likely understand where they’re coming from, validate their feelings, and hope they can find ways to feel better. So why can’t we view our own struggles in this same way? Why can’t we give ourselves grace when we’re struggling the same way we would a friend? It’s important that we share these difficult feelings with others and open the door for such conversations as they can not only be beneficial to our own wellbeing, but the way society chooses to see mental health moving forward. Continuing the conversation is a keyway to combat the negative stereotype surrounding it.
When it comes to mental health, feeling weak coincides with feeling vulnerable. Opening up to someone about what you’ve been dealing with can feel like you’re on display for judgement. Our feelings are so personal to us and the way we feel isn’t always something we’re proud of but look at it this way – we’re all human. If so many of us in this country are dealing with mental health struggles, then what is this standard for “strength” anyway? Why is mental illness seen as “weak” when its normal and fully a part of the human experience?
You are valid in what you are experiencing even if its new to you and its nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a constant among many of us and confronting it, talking to someone about it, and understanding it is the healthiest thing you can do. It’s not always the easiest, in fact it can be really hard sometimes but THAT, to me, shows strength.
Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics.