By Jernice Kelley
Web Content Contributor
International Men’s Day (IMD) was initiated by Thomas Oaster, the director of the Missouri Center for Men’s Studies, in 1992, although it was formed a year earlier. However, calls for an International Men’s Day have been noted since at least the 1960s. While now officially celebrated annually on November 19, the day focuses on men’s health, promoting positive expressions of masculinity, and much more.
Despite IMD being observed for almost 20 years, many people are unaware that the day exists and the importance of it. The lack of awareness for this day is interesting considering that International Women’s Day is well known given the promotion of it weeks prior and the UN officially recognizing it. International Men’s Day gets no such treatment.
There have been many conflicting views on IMD and whether it is needed. Some argue that every day could be considered “men’s day” in our society and that they do not need a special day to recognize the achievement of men. Yet, International Men’s Day is not about recognizing the achievement of men, it is about becoming aware of the issues that young boys and men face.Insert video
For boys and men, there is a substantial amount of societal pressure placed on them. Our society says that boys and men must be strong, emotionless, fearless, and consistently sure of themselves. The image and expectations that our society deemed necessary for men to uphold is the very thing that undoes them.
These societal expectations that discourage men from emotional expression, alongside underdiagnosed mental health conditions such as depression, are just a few reasons that men have become one of the highest risk groups for self-harm. In recent years, the suicide rate for men was 3.5 times higher than it was for women. Understanding suicide and mental health among men is a big talking point when it comes to International Men’s Day.
Women are afforded empathy and compassion that men are not. When we do not give men the same empathy and compassion, it makes it harder for them to overcome perceived expectations and gender tropes. It makes it hard for them to be vulnerable. Men often deal with a substantial number of emotional stressors, just as their women counterparts. They are just less likely to admit it.
The welfare of men is just as important as women. That is not to deny that women face an absurd amount of sexism in our society at the hands of men, but it is important to remember that men are diverse and that they do not all exude the same behaviors. It is not fair to any group, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, and everything in-between, to feel as if they do not belong. To feel as though they cannot be open and authentic.
To reduce the stigma around men’s mental health and mental health in general, we must get the message across that it’s OK to ask for help, whether for yourself, your loved ones, or anyone you think may need it.
If you, a close loved one, or a peer is suffering from thoughts of self-harm or maybe in immediate crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for resources and support at 800-273-8255.
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