Navigating Vulnerability and Help Seeking behaviour as a man.

Dear friend, how are you today?

Another opportunity to make our dreams a reality with the new month. Let’s talk about being a man and what that means in our society today.

Think for a few minutes what the word “Man” represents to you, all the roles the word embodies, all the personas it can take on….

Men’s mental health has been in the media for many reasons, the pressure , the societal expectation, the reduced life expectancy, the surprising suicides, how economy forces them into difficult circumstances and so on.

It is important that we consider our men and how they find help, comfort and strength amid all these challenges.

A study in 2019 found the 12-month prevalence of common mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and substance use was 17.6% across six African countries included in the study (South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana and Malawi).

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The Mask of Masculinity

In a world that often equates masculinity with stoicism and strength, the mere mention of vulnerability can feel like a foreign concept.

From a young age, men are conditioned to suppress their emotions, to toughen up and soldier on in the face of adversity or conflict. This is unfortunately a missed opportunity to foster empathy, emotional resilence and intelligence.

It’s a narrative deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche, perpetuated by societal expectations and gender norms that dictate how men should behave and express themselves. Being Nigerian, it’s even more so when little boys are encouraged to “man up” in the playground when they fall and need a cuddle.

Teenage boys are challenged on their masculinity when they show fear or hurt “are you not a man?”  an adult nearby will say.

Adult men often pushed into toxic relationships to quickly prove they “know how to handle a woman”. It’s a negative cycle that often perpetuates itself until a new skill is acquired and a new way living life is engaged.

But here’s the truth – vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.

It’s a testament to our humanity, a courageous act of honesty and self-awareness that lies at the heart of authentic connection and personal growth. Yet, for many men, the mere thought of being vulnerable can evoke feelings of shame, inadequacy, and fear of judgment.

The Courage to Seek Help

In a world that often demands perfection and invulnerability, it takes immense courage to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and seek help when we need it most.

It required you first notice your own distress and acknowledge it, show yourself some sympathy and then find a positive source of support. This can be therapy, a good friend, a hobby, time alone to heal, some soul lifting music or food. Whatever it is for you that puts you in a better position to move forward with renewed strength.

Whether grappling with depression, anxiety, the weight of life’s challenges,physical illness, social stresses, reaching out for support is not a sign of failure – it’s a powerful act of self-care and self-compassion.

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We as humans were not made to be alone, we were mandated to create communities and depend on one another for support and growth, a great ecosystem that thrives when each person does their part.

Seeking help is not about admitting defeat; it’s about recognizing that we all have limits, that we all need support from time to time.

Throughout our lives we will have good and bad times and it’s is useful to know that those that celebrate with you in the good days may also be invited to cry with you on the bad days. That’s life

We will reclaim ownership of our stories, embracing our vulnerabilities as sources of strength and resilience, and daring to show up as our authentic selves, flaws and all.

What use is all your lessons if you cannot use them to help others and become stronger?

Man's strength

What makes it hard to consider?

Thankfully the awareness surrounding men’s mental health has improved and we are starting to have necessary conversations. Check out this series *Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man*.

There i still a lot of stigma surrounding acknowledge mental health problems and then accessing professional help.

I have heard things like “ it’s just stress ,I need to rest”, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about my personal life to a stranger”, “I am not mad, why do I need a psychiatrist?”.

These are unhelpful narratives that help no one and harm so many. The duration of untreated mental illness is one of the strongest predictors of future wellness. The longer you avoid being properly treated, the more your brain suffers unnecessarily and recovery can be more difficult.

mens-mental-health-infographic-min
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So if you are struggling, reach out, best case you don’t need intervention and you get low intensity advice, worst case you get timely appropriate help and get back to living a good life quickly.

The men in our lives are often reluctant to seek support due to fears of judgment, perceived weakness, or concerns about appearing vulnerable in front of others.

This stigma can be particularly pronounced in male-dominated spaces, where discussions about emotions and mental health are often met with silence or dismissal.

If this has ever happened to you you know it has such a profound effect on you that it’s worth mentioning. If you feel dismissed, find a healthcare professional to speak with.

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Appropriate  vulnerability creates a shared human experience that binds us together, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles.

I use the word “appropriate” because I believe that not everyone deserves to hear our innermost pains, we all need to feel safe, heard and validated in the spaces we share our most vulnerable thoughts or plans.

There is a temptation to think vulnerability is going on social media to talk about your life, no don’t do that please, unless you have resolved the issue in a way that allows sharing your lessons.

We can improve mental health outcomes for men in our society  by providing safe places to have conversations, having visible positive mentorship, challenging outdated beliefs and fostering cultures of openness and acceptance.

I want to live in a world where men feel safe to be vulnerable, to seek support, and to thrive. Imagine what the world energy will feel like, to have more emotionally intelligent and empathetic men.

Man surrounded by food

Embracing Vulnerability as Strength

So, my dear men folk, I invite you to embrace vulnerability as a superpower, not a liability. I invite you to lean into discomfort, to cultivate compassion for yourself and others, and to recognize that true strength lies not in the absence of vulnerability, but in the courage to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Find a good friend, get a therapist, talk about who you are, be present fully in your life, breathe a bit more deeply, wear clothes you feel comfortable in, get rid of the bad coping mechanisms, exercise, eat good healthy food, be yourself the way you were made to be. It’s beautiful for the rest of the world to see you thrive.

With courage and compassion,

Stay authentic

Be yourself and keep getting better at it.

Live wholeheartedly,

Amaka

2 Cor 3:2(MSG)

You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.

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