George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Andre Agassi, Michael Jordan, Steve Smith – they have various nicknames, Agassi had two nicknames one of them was The Punisher; Jordan had a dozen monikers, one of them was Superman; Washington and Gandhi were known the ‘Father of the nation’ of the US and India respectively. All these great men and sporting personalities cried, yet we generally believe men don‘t cry.
It is that very reason men’s mental health issues are never spoken about in our conventional Indian homes. Men were the bread-earners, so while they went out, women took care of homes. Now the equations are changing, work distinction is blurring and so is a man’s capacity to hold the fort.
“In today’s times, a man confronts a myriad of problems ranging from social to psychological issues which gives rise to stress, the gap between what was to be achieved and what one could achieve,” says Dr. Mayank Bibra, Insight-Brain and Mind Clinic, Chandigarh. However, he stresses mental health is not gender or age-specific, the issues may be different when seen practically.
How has this awareness of mental health issues come about in men? There is more awareness now through social media. Men are seeking help. “Lack of energy affects their work and their relationships. More and more men take to substance use/dependence (which was earlier called substance abuse),” says Dr Simi Waraich, one of the leading psychiatrists in the Tricity. “Men have the pressure of bringing money home. The work-from-home culture has exasperated men and women alike, there are more issues now with men having to share responsibilities with women, like looking after kids, old parents, etc,” she says.
Men don’t cry is the norm we’ve always heard while growing up which resulted in men not seeking medical help. “This mentality is true for tier two and tier three towns and cities; in urban culture, a man is accompanied by his wife or parents to seek help,” says Dr Bibra.
However, a still relevant aspect in this context especially men in India is the male sufferer immediately questions, ‘you think I am mad?’ In the case of men, they don’t want to accept the mental health issue, while if the sufferer is a woman, it is the other way round, people around her impose on her that she is mad.
“Men who have mental health issues generally don’t realise or acknowledge the problem, when they do, it’s already late. They suffer badly, but they don’t share,” says Tanveer Thakur, a keen observer of social issues, based in Chandigarh.
So , does seeking psychiatrist’s help always come to your rescue? “Mental health practitioners mostly recommend lifestyle changes which if not done aggravates the problem”, says Thakur.
“Another matter of concern is late marriages, men and women are getting married in their forties, they find it difficult to handle children, the rigidity of their partners, and other underlying issues,” says Waraich, as one of the reasons with men and women floundering in marriages and affecting mental health.
“Most of the time, a man or a woman is not reporting physical abuse in a marriage because of fear of children being affected which is adding to the problem,” she says.
Single Helpline Number For Men In Distress In India