It’s a common misconception that men should not cry or show emotions. In 2023, we need to break that stigma and the cycle of young men suppressing emotions as it stems from toxic masculinity. I can understand that “toxic masculinity” is an overused word/statement, but my definition of toxic masculinity is the inability to be different than the “standard” social recognition of what a man should be without facing scrutiny. Mental health needs to be prioritized among men.
Trigger Warning: The mention of depression/mental illnesses in this article may be triggering to some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.
In 2021, men’s suicide rates are 3.90x more than women’s. Why is that? People like Andrew Tate, Fresh n Fit, and Sneako prey on men who are not your typical alpha male. I’m sorry to let you guys know… we aren’t in the 1950s anymore. Men should and need to cry. I’ve had the privilege and perhaps luxury to work with girls and boys at the ages of five to nine years old. Whenever a boy cries, they try to hold it in as best as they can. And you know what I tell them?
Let it out! And they do—every last one of them.
Here are four poetry collections and four novels about men’s mental health.
1. HIM by Pierre Alex Jeanty
Learn to understand others in HIM. As a dual collection of HER counterpart, in HIM, you begin to hear the different hardships boys and men encounter. Pierre Alex Jeanty explores the heart, needs, and fears that a man can face. This collection is more than just a simple love-themed narrative—in fact, it touches upon how there are different struggles in relationships that relate to inner turmoil.
2. mixed feelings by Abraham Rodriguez
Actor Abraham Rodriguez shares a collection of poems and photographs painting a picture of mixed feelings. Here you’ll find love, heartbreak, and the complicated healing process. These pictures help illustrate the words he has bravely written. He holds nothing back.
3. The Things We Don’t Talk About by Anthony Martinez
Anthony Martinez shares his experience with depression and how lonely this symptom can feel. In these poems, you’ll find pockets of stories unleashed by raw words that will get you thinking about your own life.
4. To My Eating Disorder by Jacy Kirby
It’s a rare sight to see a man talk about eating disorders, but alas, Jacy Kirby is one of the courageous souls. He writes such visceral prose that once you start reading, you want to savor each word. And, like the rest, Kirby does not hold back—writing in mixes of prose: long lines, short enjambment; step into his world of misery turned to triumph.
1. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Walk through the life of Oba Yozo, who is incapable of showing true emotion or feeling. He hates himself entirely. Osamu Dazai lets you see the different stages of a young man facing depression, anxiety, and loneliness from society. Many readers will feel these emotions while reading along. Here you’ll witness the cruelties of living mixed with the small, tender moments worth living for.
2. If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura
A postman finds out that he’s going to die very soon. The devil comes knocking at his door and allows him to live longer by choosing different objects to disappear from the world. Each object prolongs the man’s life by one day more. The postman reflects back on life—what brought him joy and anguish. This novel is about loss, dealing with death, and reconciling with it. What matters to you in this world? What could you say to a loved one before you go?
3. Cry Like a Man by Jason Wilson
In this nonfiction piece, Jason Wilson opens a window inside of his brain and shares the hardships he’s been through. Now, he’s strengthened himself physically, mentally, and emotionally, so he can advise the youth. Wilson also explains the harm men face when our society defines “masculinity” and what that could possibly mean. It’s never too late to heal old wounds.
“My passion is to help boys and men find strength to become courageously transparent about their own brokenness as I shed light on the symptoms and causes of childhood trauma and ‘father wounds.’ I long to see men free themselves from emotional incarceration—to see their minds renewed, souls weaned, and relationships restored.”Cry Like a Man, Jason Wilson
4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I wanted to provide a list full of writers that were men who were willing to share their experiences, whether through fiction or non. A woman, in fact, writes A Little Life—but I couldn’t bring myself not to include her in this list. Hanya Yanagihara shows you a group of college classmates who move to New York and are only surviving because of friendship. Although their friendship lasts, it’s laced with struggles of addiction, success, failures, and pride. Jude, an enigmatic devoted man, holds this group together, even when he has too many scars from his childhood that he can no longer bury. You are born into a family but can also make one yourself.
Mental health always matters. It can be hard to talk about these subjects, especially when you’re a man, because of the pressure of being a masculine, rough, and demanding person. You don’t have to be those things to be “normal.” No one is.
For more poetry collections about mental health, click here.
For books about Men’s mental health, click here.
To feel safe at all times is a basic human right; let’s work to make this world physically and mentally safe for everyone.
If you or someone you know is battling with mental health-related distress, we urge you to be kind and hold space for them, and contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (confidential, free, available 24/7/365):
→ Call or text 988
→ Chat at 988lifeline.org
→ Connect with a trained crisis counselor
European RNCE +44 (0)141 331 4180 or www.rcne.com/
List of Hotlines in 46 Countries: https://wave-network.org/list-of-helplines-in-46-countries/