The Silent Struggle: Growing Up in an Era Deaf to Men’s Mental Health

I was born in the 1960s, a tumultuous and transformative period for society. Yet, amidst the vibrancy of change, an area that remained shrouded in silence was men’s mental health. As I journey back in memory, I am reminded of the hidden struggles of my youth, of a world that misunderstood or simply dismissed the emotional and psychological needs of its sons, fathers, and brothers.

The “Man Up” Generation

The phrases “Boys don’t cry” and “Be a man” were deeply ingrained in our consciousness. Emotions, particularly ones that showed vulnerability, were seen as weaknesses. We were taught to suppress, rather than express. As a result, many of us grew up equating manhood with stoicism. Tears were hidden, fears were buried, and pain was internalized.

Lonely Battlefields

In retrospect, the teenage me battled anxiety and bouts of depression, but these terms were foreign to me then. Instead, I labeled them as phases or simply “rough patches.” I recall countless nights feeling overwhelmed but not understanding why, or being desperate to talk to someone but not knowing what to say or who to turn to. It was a lonely battlefield, and sadly, I know many of my peers fought similar silent wars.

The Domino Effect

The lack of understanding and support around men’s mental health didn’t just result in internal struggles. It rippled into our relationships, our careers, and our self-perceptions. Personal relationships sometimes suffered as we grappled with emotions we didn’t understand, let alone know how to communicate. Careers were at times driven more by the need to prove our masculinity than by genuine passion or aptitude. Our self-worth was often tied to societal metrics of “manhood” rather than genuine self-understanding and acceptance.

Realizing the Damage

It was only in my later years, as society slowly began to recognize and address mental health, that I realized the extent of the damage. The bottled-up emotions, unresolved traumas, and years of self-imposed isolation from genuine emotional connection took a toll. Many of my peers, and sadly, myself included, had to learn the hard way that unchecked mental health struggles could lead to broken families, substance abuse, and even tragic endings.

A Plea for the Future

While society has come a long way since my youth, the scars and lessons remain. My plea to the younger generations is this:

Embrace vulnerability as strength, not weakness. Open conversations about feelings and struggles. Seek help when you’re overwhelmed. Remember, being a true man is not about burying emotions but understanding and navigating them.

For those who were born and raised in eras like mine, it’s never too late. It’s never too late to talk, to understand, or to seek help. We might have grown up in silence, but we don’t have to live in it.

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