Everyone should be well aware by now that the male suicide is a growing crisis. In parts of the world including Britain it is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and with poor access to help thanks to overburdened health units the situation is only getting worse.
Many put the problem down to the fact that men are less willing to discuss their feelings and mental health due to a “macho” culture of “sucking it up”. Speaking about mental health is seen as a traditionally female attribute – women are more likely to talk about their feelings and be more caring due to gender nurturing from a young age.
STUDY: Men with anxiety are more likely to die of cancer… https://t.co/8xyYckleOU
— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) September 21, 2016
So one wonders why some bright spark decided to coin the phrase “manxiety” when talking about statistics surrounding men and anxiety. It’s a catchy word, and one the media has readily latched onto, but is anxiety really a condition which must be split along gender lines?
The logical conclusion is, presumably, that since some women may suffer from ‘anxiety’, all men require a brand new term – ‘manxiety’ – to describe their ‘abnormal’ feelings.
This requirement to gender everything and anything will only damage the fight to raise awareness of men’s mental health. By typifying men’s feelings as an “other”, separate from the usual terms, this further stigmatises them and will only serve to encourage fewer men to come forward and discuss their anxieties.
Mansplaining, manspreading, manflu, manbaby… now "manxiety". Has there ever been a decent word that starts with "man?" pic.twitter.com/lYhH11f2N0
— Martin Daubney (@MartinDaubney) September 20, 2016
On Twitter, there has been a discussion about why the words “man” and “men” always appear at the beginning of negative words. For example “manipulate”, or derogatory terms to describe men – “manflu” and “manbaby”, to name a few. In this context I have so far seen no wisecracks about the word ‘mental’, thankfully.
Whoever coined the portmanteau term ‘manxiety’ probably didn’t think through the consequences of doing so. ‘Manxiety’ is surely being viewed in the same derogatory manner as those other words perceived to be male and negative.
‘Manflu’ suggests that a man is not suffering from flu – that he is merely weak and cannot handle a generic illness that women can readily handle. People do not take “manflu” seriously.
Surely there is a danger that the term “manxiety” will go the same way. If it isn’t already, it will be seen as a lesser form of anxiety. People will accept it is real, but will decide it isn’t as bad as ACTUAL anxiety. They’ll think it’s just an overreaction to something that women deal with all of the time, without complaining about it.
This will only deepen the crisis. Men and boys suffering serious mental health issues will be less willing to come forward (perhaps even less so than they already are at the moment) and the awful cycle of no support and rising suicide rates will continue – all because we cannot accept that men’s mental health is on par with, and not less worthy of attention than, women’s mental health.
Tackling this issue should start from the cradle. Boys need to be taught that talking about their feelings is normal and perfectly in tune with masculinity. Men should be brought up to believe they need not appear invincible at all times, just as girls are taught this throughout their childhoods.
The focus of educators now seems to be on pushing girls into more traditionally “male” roles and subjects within education. This is adding to confusion for and abandonment of young men and actively deepening the country’s mental health crisis.
If the aim is to get boys and men to talk about mental health then they must be allowed to do so, saddling them with derogatory, gendered terms like ‘manxiety’ is the wrong way to go about it.