Between the 12th-18th June, the world acknowledges Men's Health Week 2023.
Tragically, suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and males are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than females. To help us understand this alarming statistic, we must look at the the social conditioning of men, how this has a negative impact on their mental health, and how this can be a barrier to accessing mental health support.
Many men have been conditioned to think of sensitivity and expression of emotion as ‘feminine’ qualities or behaviour. They face internal and external pressures to conform to societal conventions of masculinity, with pressure to embody attributes such as strength, an ability to solve problems, and being unemotional.
This conditioning often begins in early childhood with comments made to boys like 'come on, be brave, boys don’t cry'; to the depiction of male stereotypes in childhood toys and stories, such as the popular boy’s action figure ‘Action Man’; to the courageous male heroes found in fairy tales, who save the day and rescue the damsel in distress.
This continues in later childhood and adolescence, where any public displays of emotion can lead to males being called ‘wimps’ or ‘girly’, while in adulthood many men continue to face pressure to live out their lives adhering to these gender ‘norms’ and stereotypes.
Men have been taught to suppress their emotions, but this suppression can cause anxiety, stress and depression, as well as manifest physical symptoms.
Men can be reluctant to speak up about their poor mental health, finding it difficult to acknowledge vulnerability. Many men may perceive vulnerability to be weakness, and will experience shame around needing support and seeking help, viewing it as indicative of male inadequacy. A range of statistics have suggested that males are less likely to seek therapy and that female clients outweigh male clients, although fortunately the number of men seeking help has increased somewhat over the past 10 years.
Male gender and age should both be considered in regards to suicide risk. Middle age males are at the highest risk of suicide, due to the painful life experiences and feelings often experienced by men in middle age such as divorce, debt, diminished resilience or unfulfilled life expectations, along with the fact that males will often choose not to share their struggles with others or reach out for support. A survey by Samaritans (2019) states that 41% of men don’t seek support for suicidal urges as they ‘prefer to solve their own problems’.
What does this mean for the music industry?
The music industry remains male dominated and poor mental health is rife due to the specific pressures and the lifestyle that comes with working in the music industry, and we should consider how this correlates with gender pressures.
How many male musicians are suffering in silence, reluctant to acknowledge they are struggling and reach out for support if they need it?
Although we are unable to erase years of social conditioning overnight, we can all contribute towards creating the conditions for change. We can break down these harmful male stereotypes by raising awareness of men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and seek help when they need it.
If you work in the music industry, and would like to learn new skills to support yourself, your colleagues and your bandmates, you may want to attend some of our training courses:
Mental Health First Aid
Suicide First Aid Lite
Mental Health Awareness in the Music Industry
For more information, please visit our Tonic Rider webpage.