Writer Kahlil Gibran said, “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one”. Death afterlife is inevitable, but whether you lose someone at 90 or 9 you grieve for the loss.
When losing someone who has lived a full life we have a certain degree of acceptance of it. While the pain of loss is the same, the nature of death alters the pattern of grief. Losing someone young, by accident, suddenly or in a violent manner is harder to accept.
As a lover of international movies, Bollywood has always been an integral part of my movie choices. On 14th June 2020, the news of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely demise spread like a wildfire and got us all thinking why. As someone who lost someone very close to suicide, I can tell you that there is never a specific answer. When one leaves, it’s always an eternal debate between what if I did this and I know I did it all. It is cruel, sudden, and takes a part of you that never will be replaced.
According to WHO data close to 8,00,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds! And in general, more of them are men despite females attempting suicide is at a higher rate than men and the likelihood of the presence of mental illness is equal in both genders.
There are many biological factors, environmental factors that are at play when it comes to suicide and psychological issues. One of the major factors is the social factor too. I believe, as a society, we are failing to protect men. The toxic masculinity we have taught men promotes the culture of silent suffering. Let us all remember the times we have seen our fathers cry. Why is it never seen or lesser-seen? Is it because he feels less than our mothers? No! It is because he has been taught to hold back, even when it is hard.
Like femininity focuses on a female’s relationships, quietness, and delicateness a man’s masculinity is tied up with silence, endurance, and quiet suffering.
Toxic masculinity, I believe is a byproduct of toxic patriarchy, which most definitely puts men in a position of power but it, is a double-edged sword, while it empowers on one side on another side it is a big shoe to fill.
According to Vandello and Bosson, 2013, men see “Manhood as a precious state that is hard-won and easily lost that requires continued public demonstration of proof”. Masculinity, I believe is not a “one size fits all” concept. Every man has an individual interpretation of it and it is affected by social construct, educational status, financial status, and much more.
Ever since growing up, boys and girls have different toys, the way we talk to our sons and daughters is different, for a girl since a very young age it is acceptable to be vulnerable and emotional while boys are taught to be tough and display of anger is accepted more easily than a display of vulnerability.
Media representation of masculinity is also a huge influence where terms like man up, don’t run like a girl, don’t cry like a girl, feel like a man is thrown casually in literal words or not so subtle subtexts. The social construct that celebrates the supposed brave men who don’t emote, cry even in despair is also a part of building this. The pressure to conform to the macho role, building a career, financial burden of families, marriage; the image is always a big concern for men. Gender racism, ethnic racism sadly still exists along with prejudice, microaggression, and harmful stereotypes.
The supposed gender roles are deeply embedded in us. As a student of psychology, it took me a long time to unlearn this myself. It took me a lot of reading, a lot of practice, and a lot of empathy to understand that suffering is the same for all the genders and it is still a work in progress.
Gender roles help no one and affect us all. To combat this, we need to start as early as childhood. Instead of teaching our children to conform to one role, we must make them feel comfortable with their emotions because many men today are not in touch with their feelings and it comes out only in form of aggression, violence, and indifference. We must teach them empathy and courage to speak their mind. Next time a male friend cries, let’s not make him stop by saying, “Men don’t cry”, when a male family member looks sad let’s not brushing it under the carpet owing to our discomfort.
And dear men, please take the lead! When you taste something doesn’t hide, self medicate, or try to deal with it internally. Talk to that friend you always talk to, talk to your parents, spouse, and if you feel they would not understand fight that stigma and call someone who can help.
Call a counselor, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a helpline number. Please remember, with every step you take to help yourself, you are helping Nepal take a stride towards mental health awareness and equality among genders.
Here are Helpline Numbers. Reach out when needed –