• Thomas Kulikowski

Toxic Masculinity and Men's Mental Health

Throughout my life, I’ve had episodes of anxiety and depression, but my true mental health

“journey” didn’t start until college. On the back end of losing a loved one, leaving a long-term

relationship, and having a career-ending sports injury within three months, I was left exposed

and empty. I completely lost myself and filled every void with terrible habits because I felt like a

burden to the people around me and didn’t feel like speaking up was a viable option.


Unfortunately, false masculinity dominates the popular culture surrounding men, and trying to

break through those barriers is very difficult. I was fed the illusion that I couldn’t be sensitive or

speak out about the things that bothered me and honestly didn’t know how to handle how I was

feeling. It’s really important for men to realize that those barriers are just social constructs and

that one conversation with a loved one or therapist could change the entire direction of their life.


When I first opened up to my family about my mental health I was told to “stop thinking that way” or “man up, you’re a happy person” and it never helped me feel better. That added to my depression and placed even more weight on my shoulders. It took a near-death experience for them to finally take my health seriously and my only hope is that popular culture shifts in the direction of supporting men who struggle with mental health so situations like mine can be avoided. I think that the most important thing to remember is that everyone is dealing with something, vulnerability is not gender-based, and sadness and angst are as much a part of human nature as anything else.


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