College is some students’ first times away from home. Not only do students get their first taste of independence, but they need to find an outlet to air inevitable frustrations, like roommate disagreements and academic struggles.
For men, masculine pride complicates the search for a comfortable safe space at school. Being unable to cope with issues that arise in college can lead men to internalize their feelings and act tough, which can lead to harmful effects on mental health. Detecting mental health issues in men is far more difficult than in women, and men do not seek help nearly as often as women. But that does not have to be the case.
All students should feel comfortable sharing emotions, but opening up to anyone can be arduous for men. There are outlets – like talking to friends or exercising – to appropriately express feelings, but knowing when and how to use these outlets can make men feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Men frequently shy away from sharing their emotions for fear of being bullied or put down, and their suppressed feelings can channel into anger or physical aggression.
Although men may feel inclined to swallow down and bottle up their emotions, we should not be afraid to tell others how we are feeling.
When we do not want to be vulnerable around our peers, we should not be afraid to seek professional support. I have dealt with anxiety and depression since I was bullied in fifth grade and have been in therapy on and off from the time I was 10 years old to now. My therapists have helped me find the tools to keep my mental health in check. Even when the strategies to care for my mental health are not enough, therapy has helped me learn to share my thoughts and feelings. Other male students should know that seeking similar support is an effective way to express their feelings.
But men seek therapy less often than women, which is problematic because we need it just as much. Admitting our insecurities can be challenging, especially admitting them to ourselves. For mental health, therapy is among the more common forms of treatment and is available at the Colonial Health Center. The CHC provides several free sessions of counseling and psychological services. A greater number of men seeking emotional support through therapy could help break the stigma that men need to push through hurtful feelings.
Therapy is not the only outlet available to men, but it is a good start. Learning to effectively use communication tools through therapy can later allow men to lean on friends and family for support. But there are other options, like meditation and talking with friends, for those unable to afford therapy or who do not want help from the CHC.
Until all men realize that expressing their feelings is OK, they will be stuck without a safe and comforting outlet at school. We are capable of breaking through our emotional barriers and expressing ourselves. Getting a fresh start away from home is a prime opportunity to try expressing our vulnerabilities, and there are services available on campus to help us get a head start.
Matthew Zachary, a junior majoring in international affairs, is a columnist.
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