Man up

Stereotypes of masculinity are harming Australian men.

On playgrounds and sporting fields across Queensland you’ll hear parents telling young boys to ‘harden up’, ‘be a man’ and that ‘boys don’t cry’.

Despite the growing awareness of men’s mental health issues, stereotypes of masculinity including self-reliance, stoicism, aggression and emotional repression continue to impact the health and wellbeing of Australian boys and men.

A study from The Men’s Project and the Queensland University of Technology has revealed young men who conform to traditional definitions of manhood, known as being in the ‘man box’, are twice as likely to consider suicide and seven times more likely to be violent towards others.

The study’s co-author Associate Professor Michael Flood said the results revealed the dangers of ‘toxic masculinity’ for men and the wider community.

“Young men in the ‘man box’ were more likely than other men to have poor mental health, to seek help from only a narrow range of sources and to be involved in binge drinking and traffic accidents,” Professor Flood said.

Men’s mental health foundation Gotcha4Life CEO Tim Hodgson said many traditional attitudes to masculinity were generational.

“These attitudes have been passed down through the generations and we’re at a point where boys are being brought up to follow an unspoken set of rules that dictate what it means to be a man,” Mr Hodgson said.

“We need to teach kids that they don’t have to live by this perceived set of ‘man rules’ that aren’t actually real and aren’t written anywhere.”

Mr Hodgson said opening up and sharing could help boys become resilient and well-adjusted young men.

“As blokes we tend to skip the hard conversations and we have chats that just skim the surface,” he said.

“Men rarely delve deeper into their own emotions or have the capacity and tools to ensure their family and friends feel comfortable talking to them about difficult issues.

“Kids will always copy their parent’s behaviour so showing your feelings and talking about feelings and mental health is really important.

“If we can give malleable young minds the emotional skills to recognise when they’re struggling, and the tools to open up and talk about it, they’ll not only build their own mental fitness as they grow but they can even show the older generation how it should be done.” 

If you or anyone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Men's mental health facts

  • One in five men experience depression in a twelve-month period.

  • Three quarters of people who die by suicide are men.

  • Six Aussie men between 15-44 take their own lives daily.

  • One in five men will experience an anxiety condition.

  • Men are less likely to seek help for mental health than women.