This student is helping men to talk about mental health through art
A California State University student has created an art exhibition to challenge the stigma around men expressing emotions. Source: Aaina Sharma/Unsplash

In a world that values masculinity and a strong, stoic persona, it can be difficult for men to find the words to express their innermost feelings.

While girls build social bonds through showing emotions from a young age, boys are encouraged to suppress their emotions in favour of a macho exterior.

This can have devastating effects in later life. Men miss out on learning healthy emotional expression in early life, which leads to higher depression and suicide rates among adult men.

But now students are fighting to end the stigma, through mental health campaigns on campus focusing on male expression.

The ‘Collectively Here’ exhibit at California State University encourages men to explore their emotions through art.

The exhibit was created by art student Jessica Hartman, who noticed a side to her male friends that they did not normally show to the world. This made her think about the issues that emotional suppression caused by pressure to succumb to a gender stereotype.

“I was always a tomboy, so most of my friends were always male, and so I felt like I always got to see a different side of them compared to what they presented to everybody else,” Hartman told The Daily Titan.

Hartman spoke to men she personally knew about the issues they find hard to talk about. She found her conversations centred on isolation, substance abuse, body image and grief.

One man told Hartman: “Now it’s hard for me to even talk to my family and friends about what I’m going through with losing my best friend and what I’m feeling. I feel destroyed right now but I feel like I have to be strong for my family.”

Through photographs and words laid out on a copper plate, Hartman hopes to reveal the personal struggles the men in her life experience despite gender stereotypes usually silencing their cries.

Hartman hopes her exhibit will bring awareness to the internal struggles all men face and encourage men to be more emotionally open with their friends.

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