A look at the notions of toxic masculinity around suppressing emotions and its effect on the mental health of men.


There is a mental health crisis in India, which has been ignored severely. In 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, reported that nearly 15 crore Indians needed medical intervention for their mental health problems. The National Survey of Mental Health Resources found that there are only 4,000 psychiatrists in the country when the required number is around 13,000.

Other statistics show that the ratio of psychiatrists per 100,000 people in India is 0.3, the number of mental health nurses per 10,000 is 0.12, with psychologists at 0.07 and social workers at 0.07. However, at the brink of this crisis, there is still a stigma attached to mental health.

The idea of toxic masculinity in India encompasses certain characteristics that men should adopt, so as to not appear “feminine” and to be “manly”. The core behind these characteristics is that men should be aggressive, tough, muscular, and unemotional. An advertisement against domestic abuse told us that “men don’t cry, nor do they make others cry.”

The question that comes out is – why should men not cry or show emotions?

Why is that considered weak by the society? Men have been constantly told since childhood that expressing emotions is not masculine and that it somehow invalidates their gender identity. This, in turn, affects their mental health as they grow up lacking conventional ways of expression of emotions.

Bhavika Mehta, a second-year student who is the founder of The Happy Company, which is a mental health organisation, says, “Society has set a standard image for men, and there are so many notions around this very image of ‘mard ko dard nahi hota (men don’t feel pain)’, movies, songs and TV shows glorify this very idea of suppressing their emotions. What follows is a lifelong spiral of feeling guilty about feeling a certain way, being vulnerable, and hiding how they feel. Suppressing the emotions can cause severe effects on a person’s mental health, and then also make it difficult for them to talk about it because they’re expected not to feel that way.”

A rejection of the idea that crying is weak and negative would be a revolutionary step to do away with the stigma that has plagued entire generations of men. In fact, crying is known to have many positive impacts. Crying helps you relax, according to a study, it can help people to get support from people around them. It also helps in releasing oxytocin and endorphins which are feel-good chemicals in the brain that help with emotional and physical pain relief, improving one’s mood.

When humans cry in response to stress, it actually acts as a stress reliever. Crying also has several physical benefits – it improves your vision, cleans out bacteria, and keeps the eyes clean in general. Hence, the question arises again, why should men not cry or show emotion?

There is no logical answer to this question. For years, the ideas perpetuated by toxic masculinity have shackled men emotionally. It has led to many men (add the word for clarity) suffering from stunted emotional growth. Men should be taught from an early age that crying and expressing emotions is a completely normal thing to do, and expressing emotions should be considered healthy. Men should be steered away from the idea that violence and aggression solve everything, and should be encouraged to find healthier solutions and coping mechanisms. They should not be measured on their “toughness” and strength and should be shown that true bravery comes from expressing emotions and accepting themselves as they are.


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Prabhanu Kumar Das

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