This post was written by Stephen A. Harris, who was asked to reflect on his experience with mental health and masculinity in his life. He is a dear friend of mine who has agreed to share his story. Thank you Stephen!
It Started From the Beginning
“You weak, cuz.”
“Why you cryin’ like a bitch?”
“You need to man up, that’s how females talk.”
These were common phrases when showing emotion around family growing up, especially my cousins around the same age as me. I was raised to believe real men don’t cry, real men are tough and real men don’t show weakness. What I didn’t realize was the damage that was being done that affects me to this day.
As I’ve leaned more into the mental health space and got to know people in the community, I’ve recognized subtle differences and undertones when certain people discuss mental health. I’ve also recognized less subtle differences in part of this discussion, and that usually involves how men talk about mental health. I can’t understand some of the nuances and differences of mental health outside of my own cishet male experience, but by looking at statistics and data alone, something is clear: men need help with mental health just as much as any group of people.
When I first began experiencing symptoms of depression, I (quite naturally, I might add) shrugged it off. I assumed that most people felt the way I was feeling at the time, and chalked it up to any number of reasons: I was in a transitional period in my life, going through a lot of change and facing plenty of uncertainties. I was shocked when, the more I began to share my experiences with others, the more I saw that they were more unique than I thought. But I also found it interesting that women were far more open to discussing my issues than men were. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.