No More Keeping Quiet: Revisiting Masculinity and Mental Health (Session 2E)
Main Topic: Flourishing, Well-being, and Social-Emotional Learning
Session Type: Paper
It is difficult to talk about mental health as a male in the United States. American men are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness and emotional isolation. As an American male, we have been taught that we shouldn’t need anyone, and that reaching out for help…especially with emotional or mental health issues…is a sign of weakness. As a result, many American males don’t have the language to talk about their mental health struggles, and they don’t know how to reach out for help when they are feeling isolated and alone. We are raised with an ideal of manhood that is completely unrealistic and unhealthy and this stereotypical model of masculinity is exacting a terrible toll on men in the United States.
In the media, we are used to hearing about how women and minorities are overrepresented in many societal problems, but suicide is one exception to this pattern. Suicide in America disproportionately affects middle-aged men. According to the most recent statistics, approximately 132 Americans die by suicide each day, and 103 of them are men (approximately 78%), with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the states with the highest rates of suicide are all in the Mountain Time Zone with the exception of Alaska. Rates of suicide by middle-aged males in New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado are almost double the national rate; with, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah just slightly less than that. It is ironic that these states with a strong, independent Western identity are the states where men are clearly struggling the most with managing their mental and emotional health.
Over the past few years, I have had multiple acquaintances who have died by suicide because they weren’t able to talk about their issues or get the help that they needed. This has made me much more aware of my own mental health and the fact that I need to talk about it and take active steps to maintain my own emotional well-being, but it’s not easy. This session will explore some of the epidemiological impacts of our outmoded gender expectation on male’s mental health and will present a series of evidence-based practices that can be used to support mental health, and will conclude with a new definition of modern masculinity that takes into account the socio-emotional supports that are necessary to thrive in modern society.
- Understand the epidemiology of mental health issues among males in the U.S., and specifically in the Western U.S.
- Have a better understanding of the impact of societal expectations/norms on mental health.
- Learn about several evidence-based practices and interventions that have been shown to be effective in countering the epidemic of male mental health issues and suicide in the U.S.
- Learn about the importance of redefining social expectations related to masculinity and mental health.
Keywords: stress, well-being, mental health, masculinity, gender
Dr. Matthew WappettUtah State University - Executive Director / Associate Research Professor
Utah State University
Dr. Matthew Wappett is a researcher, a writer, and an educator in leadership, stress management, and inclusion. His approach to “compassionate leadership” has been implemented in many organizations and classrooms, and is informed by his background in Disability Studies and as a whitewater guide. Dr. Wappett’s work is also focused on the effects of laughter as a stress management technique and a tool to create inclusion. Dr. Wappett genuinely enjoys teaching people how to laugh and his engaging and entertaining presentation style has made Dr. Wappett a highly sought after public speaker and trainer. Dr. Wappett is also the Executive Director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. He also holds an affiliate appointment as a Research Associate Professor in the USU Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling. Dr. Wappett’s teaching and research on the effects of stress on learning and behavior helps individuals and organizations understand how to become more resilient and inclusive. Dr. Wappett is committed to providing educators, social workers, and other human service professionals with the tools they need to manage their stress, and the skills they need to become more resilient. He is committed to creating inclusive environments that foster a sense of purpose and belonging. Dr. Wappett earned his Ph.D. in Special Education, an M.Ed. in Educational Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah. Dr. Wappett has also participated in Clinical Training for Mind-Body Medicine through the Harvard Medical School. He completed his public school teaching certification while pursuing his Master’s degree at the U of U. He is also a former whitewater guide and Swiftwater Rescue Technician and has run most of the major rivers in the Western U.S. and Alaska.