by Elizabeth Setti
Men should be encouraged to seek out help for mental health issues.
The body positivity movement traditionally has been geared towards women because of continuous societal expectations. However, cisgender heterosexual males also suffer from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a lack of confidence in general because of male body standards. People who identify as men also gravitate towards dismissing their mental health problems to avoid being labeled as “weak.” As a society, we often do not recognize how much pressure is placed on men to look a specific way. The stigma around mental health, especially in men, is a major problem.
Similar to women, there is an ideal body type and diet culture that society has constructed for men. Males are expected to be muscular, bulky, and strong—which is not a realistic expectation for all bodies. Additionally, men are type casted as less emotionally available compared to women, resulting in many men hiding their feelings. For example, if a man is suffering from issues correlated to body image, they are more likely to internalize those emotions, so that they are not perceived as weak. Being emotionally weak derives from misogynistic stereotypes that women exhibit their feelings more than men. Society has unintendedly labeled these tendencies as “weak.” Not accepting or actively recognizing those harmful feelings can lead to several more severe issues such as eating disorders or depression. The Mental Health Foundationstates, “One in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, or OCD. And only 36% of referrals to psychological therapies are for men.” Millions of men suffer from mental health yet don’t receive the necessary care needed in order to improve. The disproportion between genders for mental health treatment is a major contributing factor to the mental health crisis in America.
Specifically in regards to how diet culture impacts men, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) predicts one in three people who struggle with eating disorders are male. In fact, there is a higher risk of mortality from eating disorders for men when compared to women. It is critical to recognize the commonality of eating disorders in men because of how debilitating the side effects may be. The NEDA states, “Men and boys with anorexia nervosa usually exhibit low levels of testosterone and vitamin D, and they have a high risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis.” With eating disorders being so common in men, public health should make a push for offering men treatment. Ultimately, breaking the stigma around men having problems correlated to mental health is the first step towards fixing this crisis.
Overall, our society has failed men in multiple ways in the aspect of mental wellbeing. As individuals we have to work towards normalizing mental health problems among all genders. Advocating for men to have better access to psychiatric treatment is a way to contribute to the solution. People who identify as men can discuss issues with their primary care doctor. Additionally, we must destigmatize the connotation that men who struggle are weak. The mental health crisis America is undergoing is a problem that is caused by all genders. Therefore, every gender deserves to be applauded and supported by others for focusing on their mental health.
About Elizabeth Setti
Elizabeth Setti is a junior at Richwoods High School in the International Baccalaureate program. Setti plays volleyball for both Richwoods and Central Illinois Elite Volleyball Club, where she has the opportunity to travel throughout the Midwest and compete at high levels. She is the editor (and previously a writer) for the sports section of “Richwoods Shield,” her school’s newspaper. Setti serves on the student leadership team and Noble Knights, and is a member of her school’s science club. She was recently diagnosed with Anorexia-Nervosa, which she developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She feels it is important to share her story and spread awareness about eating disorders. As such, Setti created a blog called “A Hidden Addiction,” where she tells her story and her journey to recovery.