Boys Don’t Cry

He might sit behind you in class. You’ve probably walked past him in the hallway. Maybe he’s your best friend. But how well do you really know him?

He is the product of a society that sees emotion as weakness and traditional masculinity as strength. He hides behind novels and films that preach stoicism and indifference, bolstered by the “sigma male” and “GymTok” movements. From “Fight Club’’ to “American Psycho,” he finds comfort in hypermasculine characters that reinforce the age-old saying he has been taught to follow: boys don’t cry.

“Males have historically been stereotyped as being stoic and strong, therefore it is less acceptable for them to be emotional,” TPHS counselor Chanelle Lary said. “By masking [their feelings], there might be more of a need for positive mental health than they are aware of.”

According to the World Health Organization, one man dies from suicide every 14.4 minutes in the United States; men are 3.9 times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Men in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by poor mental health; yet, the stigma surrounding male vulnerability persists.

One man trying to eliminate the stigma is Billy Garton Jr., who founded the You Choose Movement, a program aimed at empowering young men with mental health struggles to retake control of their lives. Garton was motivated by his own experiences with depression as a professional soccer player in England.

“From the outside looking in, I was living my dream. But I was the most alone, sad and depressed I had ever been in my life,” Garton said, “I hit rock bottom.”

When he needed it the most, Garton reached out. He called the mental health hotline.

“I knew something had to change,” he said.

Rather than chasing his lifelong dream of professional soccer, Garton chose to return to the United States, where he embarked on a “five-year healing journey.”

Sadly, Garton’s story isn’t uncommon.

Millions of men globally suffer from the same issues that prompted Garton to rethink his approach to his mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, 9% of all men in the U.S. struggle with diagnosed depression or anxiety.

Nonetheless, viral social media movements that promote hypermasculinity through physical strength and aggression, continue to ostracize males who seek support through therapy, while celebrating those who may mask their feelings. According to Forbes Magazine, the sigma male trend limits masculine expression.

Beyond poor emotional habits, those trends represent a direct link to the far more sinister incel community. Involuntary celibates, or “incels,” seek revenge against society for the standards that deny them female attention, to which they feel entitled. They are responsible for numerous terrorist attacks over the past decade, primarily targeted at women. According to the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, incel-related attacks in the U.S. and Canada have killed 40 to 50 people.

“Assault, murder, theft, abuse; the world is suffering at the hands of unhealed men,” Garton said.

Despite the persistence of negative stereotypes surrounding men seeking mental health treatment, movements to destigmatize anxiety and depression have gradually gained mass support.

“In this day and age, there is a larger awareness of mental health,” Lary said. “If you’re better able to gauge how you’re feeling, then you are better able to manage your emotions.”

To that end, the TPHS Peer Assistant Listeners organizes Red Ribbon Week and Yellow Ribbon Week to spread awareness and resources regarding anxiety, depression and suicide. PALs puts on Welcome Wednesdays, Challenge Days and Stress Less Weeks – school bonding activities meant to establish a support system for students.

“What we’re trying to do at PALs is … make sure people don’t feel alone,” PALs President Lindsay Van Winkle said.

However, the issues surrounding men’s mental health are institutional. Well-intentioned, seminars and conferences will not alone bring about the change necessary to alter the way male emotions are perceived.

“Obviously we know our events won’t change everything,” Van Winkle said, “There’s still a lot more work to do.”

Ron Tal (12) agrees. As an AP student, member of the TP Academic Team and TPPlayers, Tal is no stranger to academic pressure. Like countless others, he struggled with poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Guys should feel more comfortable with their feelings and expressing those feelings with others,” Tal said, “We can’t stay stone-faced all the time.”

As younger generations start families of their own, maybe it’s time we stopped expecting men to remain “stone-faced.”

No more “suck it up.”

No more “be a man.”

Maybe it’s time we see that men can express their emotions just the same as women do. Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that boys do cry. And that is okay.

Read on Issuu.

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