‘Men don’t cry’ is an understanding that is common in our society. It’s inspired films, songs and TV programmes.
Crying is often seen as showing weakness – for everyone – but our society allows that ‘weakness’ in women that it does not allow in men.
Emotional crying is healthy – for the most part. It can help to relieve negative emotions such as frustration, anxiety or sadness. Crying from stress is particularly powerful – the tears can help the body to clear itself of chemicals that increase the stress hormone called Cortisol.
Though the situation that had caused you to cry will still be there, after having cried you may find an improvement in your mood or feel calmer and you might be in a better place emotionally in order to tackle that situation.
Crying also aids communication and promotes bonding. Making your vulnerability known is difficult, but crying in front of loved ones or people who are supportive shows a trust in them.
However, there is evidence that crying is not good if you cry in public spaces or in front of less supportive people, as it can lead to a feeling of embarrassment or shame. While it maybe important to let yourself cry, it is also important to consider your surroundings.
There is research that suggests that higher levels of testosterone in men may be a reason that men are less likely to cry. However there is also research to show that there is a cultural, societal reason for the suppression of tears also.
In the UK and Northern Ireland, much like other places in the world, the male suicide rates are staggering. The Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report for 2017 states:
Male rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland – most notably 5 times higher in Republic of Ireland and around 3 times in the UK.
The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 40–44.
The highest suicide rate in the Republic of Ireland was for men aged 25–34 (with an almost identical rate for men aged 45–54).
Of course, this is not to suggest that a quick cry will prevent suicide. If you or someone you know displays signs of depression or suicidal thoughts contact Samaritans for free on 116 123 or contact the NHS.
The fact is that children – and in particular- boys are taught to ‘be brave, don’t cry’. Boys are raised without being taught how to properly discuss their emotions. During and after puberty, boys are placed in a society that does not give them permission to show vulnerability.
The suppression of emotion is dangerous, it can lead to violence, alcoholism and perhaps suicide.