Because we can’t effectively deal with the mental health crisis without dealing with the pressure of gender stereotypes and expectations.
Peer groups, family and social media put more and more pressure onto us to be something we’re not.
Men and boys feel pressured to be:
- Aggressive, dominant and risk-taking
- Powerful, wealthy and always winning
- Self-reliant, not asking for help
- Unemotional – hiding feelings other than anger
Women and girls feel pressured to be:
- Thin and beautiful
- In a relationship
- The perfect mother and home-maker
“Many of the teenage girls we work with tell us that they face a huge range of pressures. In particular, the rise of social media means they need to always be available, they may seek reassurance in the form of likes and shares, and they are faced with constant images of ‘perfect’ bodies or ‘perfect’ lives, making it hard not to compare themselves to others,” Sarah Brennan, CEO Young Minds.
80% of 11 – 21 year olds felt their looks were the most important thing about them and 93% agreed women were judged more on appearance than ability (2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey)
All the evidence shows that the more we buy into extreme ideas of masculinity and femininity the more we – and people around us – suffer, and these pressures hit the most vulnerable in our communities the hardest. These attitudes and beliefs mean that men are most likely to:
- Be violent, controlling or abusive to others, especially women. Over 90% of violent crimes are committed by men. Around a third of women in the UK have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lives and around 85,000 are raped in England and Wales every year.
- Abuse alcohol and drugs. Men are three times more likely than women to be frequent drug users.
- Die by suicide. Suicide is the single most common cause of death among men under 35 and around a quarter of men aged between 16 – 24 turn to self-harm to deal with difficult emotions. Men are far less likely than women to seek help for mental health problems.
“Nearly two months ago, I was told to ‘man up’ and a month ago I was in hospital after trying to take my own life. Don’t f******g man up, talk.”
Liam, Facebook user
Women and girls are more likely to:
- Have low self-esteem and confidence. “I’ve witnessed girls unwilling to speak to groups because of how they look, I’ve heard girls saying they’ve been called names at school and aren’t confident trying new activities as a result. Something needs to be done.” Liddy Buswell, Brownie leader aged 18
- Self-harm. In the last 10 years, hospital admissions for self-harm among girls rose by two-thirds.
- Experience depression and anxiety. From the time a girl reaches puberty until about the age of 50, she is twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man.
“Society needs to understand that gender stereotypes aren’t just harmful but a barrier to progress.” Girl Guiding Report, 2017
Trans people are more likely to:
- Die by suicide. Almost half (48 per cent) of trans people in Britain have attempted suicide at least once; 84 per cent have thought about it.
- Experience depression. More than half (55 per cent) have been diagnosed with depression at some point. (Trans Mental Health Survey 2012)
It’s time to change
By enabling people to reflect on how ideas about gender have affected their mental health and begin to make changes, Humans Being aims to enable help people change their lives and start to change the our attitude towards gender and mental health.
“When you dig deeper you realise we are all conditioned from childhood. A revelation!”
“Now I’m going to give myself more credit and be more confident.”
“Confidence boosting! loved it.”