Before starting college, I never gave a single thought to my mental health and how it was affecting me. It was only after I started seeing a counselor at CAPS that I realized how bad my mental health was, and what I had to work on to make sure that I was getting to a better place.

I began to do some research on the importance of mental health and just how different it can be from individual to individual. I realized that each time someone talked about mental health, the image I’d have in my brain was a woman struggling, a thought process emblematic of how often we tend to overlook men’s mental health.

The many sociology classes that I’ve taken so far have taught me that we live in a society where men are told to be strong, to not “cry like a baby” and toughen up. There is a lot of stigma around men trying to express themselves emotionally and physically. 

We should create space for men to be vulnerable and express their emotions easily, and not be limited to the standards that society has created for us.

Did you know every year over 6 million men suffer from depression? Isn’t that a crazy number? According to Mental Health America, depression often goes undiagnosed in men. Personally, I think it’s because most men think people won't be able to understand what they are going through and cannot be vulnerable, even with their partners or closest friends. 

Heteronormative standards of masculinity in society have made talking about mental health an unviable option for men. This social construction needs to change in order to enable men to freely discuss their mental health. 

MHA also states that there is a huge gender disparity that we do not talk about — more than four times as many men than women die of suicide; as shocking as it sounds, it is the truth. Studies show that women often attempt suicide more often than men, but are less likely to follow through with it. In contrast, men are more likely to follow through because they don’t get the necessary help to redirect themselves onto a positive path. So, why do men not seek help? 

A journal article by the American Psychological Association states that a lot of these men learn from an authoritative figure — like their parents or friends — that they cannot express their vulnerabilities or feelings of hurt. They are taught to suppress their emotions, so by the time they become adults they aren’t even aware of the fact that there is something seriously wrong with their mental or emotional health. As a result, they often do not even have the vocabulary to express what is going on.

To make it easier for men to be able to seek help and talk about their mental health, we need to make sure that we are creating a space that normalizes the fact that everyone — at some point or another — deals with mental health difficulties, and it is okay to get help.

Being compassionate and reaching out to your friends who might be struggling can be one of the first steps taken to encourage them to be open about what is going on. In my experience, it has always helped when someone simply listened to what is bothering me, rather than rushing to provide an immediate remedy. The issue with focusing only on solutions to problems is that many times when someone is struggling with something, they just need someone they trust to listen and allow them to get things off their chest. This might not be the case for every person or situation, but lending a listening ear is always a great place to start.

Being a college student is already tough enough, so if something else is going on with one’s personal life,  we need to be there for people who are suffering and direct them to the many resources on campus. There are multiple resources on campus that provide mental health services, with fees ranging from absolutely free to $25.

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health concerns, please explore the resources below:

If you’d like to speak to a counselor to help you work through your feelings and any burdens you might be carrying, Counseling and Psychological Services is here on campus to help you. Their services are covered by student fees, and they usually see students for 6-12 sessions. To contact them and set an appointment, call 402-472-7450.

If you’re interested in speaking to a therapist who can provide you with longer-term healing support and help you understand what you are going through, the Psychological Consultation Center at UNL is always available to students with cost per session ranging from $5-25. You can reach them at 402-472-2351. 

If you need additional details on what services the university provides, please look through this website from OASIS.

Malvika Vijju is a junior women’s and gender studies major. Reach her at malvikavijju@dailynebraskan.com.