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Singaporean men are expected to be more emotionally resilient than women

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A study found that 7 in 10 Singapore-based participants believe that there is an expectation for men to be more emotionally resilient than women.

Ad agency BBH Singapore and social organisation Calm Collective Asia ran a survey aimed at understanding barriers around men seeking help for mental health issues. The agency polled 1,000 respondents, 542 men and 458 women, between the ages 16 – 54 and above.

The findings suggest that gender plays a role in influencing mental illness stigma in Singapore. It also suggests to a certain extent lowered mental health literacy which could contribute to holding negative views towards those with mental illness. Traditionally masculinity evokes certain expressions and demonstrations of behaviours such as self-reliance and restrictions in certain behaviours such as crying. This may lead to difficulty in expressing challenging emotions as it assigns weakness and disempowerment.

Parandaman T., Chartered Forensic Psychologist, Principal Paediatric Forensic Psychologist at Psych Connect

The key reason why Singapore-based men are not seeking help for their mental health is because they have ‘learnt to deal with it’ (53.2 percent). The 16-24 year old age group leads with this attitude, with 73.3 percent sharing ‘learnt to deal with it’ as their reason for not wanting to seek help.

more emotionally resilient

Compared to women, the main reason shared why women in Singapore will not seek help for their mental health is that “getting help is too costly” (59.5 percent).

The survey also found that men (27 percent) are much more likely than women (19.9 percent) to think that “asking for help will make me lose respect from my peers”.

more emotionally resilient

For men, this mindset displayed through the survey results, poses an additional layer of stigma to overcome. This is on top of the existent stigma surrounding mental illness and getting help for one’s mental health.

Calm Collective was founded in response to losing two dear male friends to suicide. This jolted us to break the stigma and to normalise mental health conversations in Asia, and amongst men. The survey findings were especially interesting for us, though not surprising. We are culturally and socially conditioned to place unrealistic expectations on men. For instance, men are told from a young age that “boys don’t cry” and being emotional only makes them look weak. They’re expected to appear strong, stoic and “emotionally resilient”. But emotional resilience is not about repressing one’s emotions, but by embracing them fully and turning to support systems for help. This needs to stop – men need to stop questioning themselves and bottling up their challenges if they are struggling mentally, else it will be too late.

Sabrina Ooi, Co-founder and CEO of Calm Collective Asia