Society’s preoccupation with gender roles continues to have a damaging effect on the lives of many, especially men’s

 

Many issues and inequalities prevalent in our society are inextricably linked, and mental health is no exception. As a generalisation, in almost all areas of life, women are at a disadvantage.

Various institutions and professions in society, such as the institution of medicine and the healthcare profession, actively allow the subordination of women in order to preserve a patriarchal structure. This is evident when analysing statistics on mental health: women are six times more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Chesler, a leading sociologist argues that women’s behaviour is more likely to be defined in terms of mental illness because the definition is given within a male-dominated profession — signalling an additional expression of power over women.

There is a statistic however, that does not fit in with the normal pattern of society: suicide. This is perhaps the one social issue which sees the male gender at a significant disadvantage. And why is this? My view? The black and white notion of femininity and masculinity, stemming from the conventional socialisation of children taught stereotypes such as, ‘boys can only wear blue and girls can only wear pink’.

Sociologists such as George Murdock and Talcott Parsons, based their theories on the backward belief that men ought to perform the ‘instrumental role’ within society; the economic function of being a breadwinner. Whereas women were to carry out the ‘expressive role’; the childbearing and nurturing function. Regrettably, such antiquated views have been adopted by mainstream society, subsequently contributing to the much higher rate of young males committing suicide.

From a very young age, it is instilled into a boy’s psyche that he must be strong and never ‘cry like a girl’. He must also use his fists to sort out problems rather than discuss his emotions. A man is brought up to believe that he represents the stronger gender, and in many cases this cultural upbringing puts him at an advantage.

But such pressure to be masculine however, means that many men are less inclined to seek medical advice when it comes to mental health problems, compared to women.

Research suggests that women are especially prone to psychological problems such as depression, which almost always precede suicide. In Western society, overall rates of mental health disorders tend to be around 20-40 per cent higher for women than for men. Yet of the 5,981 deaths by suicide in the UK in 2012, more than three-quarters (4,590) were males. In the US, of the 38,000 people who took their own lives in 2010, 79 per cent happened to be men.

It is time for society to seriously reflect on its actions. Specifically, how linear socialisation of gender roles determines the fate of men and women in nearly every aspect of their lives. The statistics are not simply numbers on a page, they are a tragic reality. The reality of a gender-segregated society.

Gender fluidity needs to be introduced into mainstream society if there is to be any hope of changing the current patterns of destructive behaviour.