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“STOP CRYING…”

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By: Spokesman Newsroom

BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Wednesday 28th February 2024)- On topic of mental well-being, Clinical Mental Health Counsellor and President of the St.Kitts Mental Health Association Zahra Jacobs, is calling on society to be more mindful, particularly in how boys are taught and told how to express their emotions.

Making an appearance on Freedom FM’s ‘From a Man’s Point Of View’- hosted under the theme ‘Depression & Mental Health- aired live on Monday 26th February 2024, the mental health expert placed a spotlight on the message that young boys often receive when displaying emotions- “Stop crying, man up.”

Clinical Mental Health Counsellor and President of the St. Kitts Mental Health Association Zahra Jacobs

Jacobs during her sentiments examined how from an early age, society’s conditioning instructs boys to mask their feelings, and instead  present a tough exterior in hiding emotions like sadness and distress while anger is often acceptable for emotional expression.

“When we see our boys crying, we say, ‘Oh, stop crying. Man up. Man up’…You are being taught very early on to mask your feelings. If you feel badly, put on another face. And the one face that we tend to accept readily from boys is anger,” the counselor expressed.

She continued: “We are saying, ‘Don’t be sad, don’t be distressed but you know what? Be angry. Fight it out. Get it out.’ Like, that is what we say. And we say it without thinking about it. ‘Stop crying, Man up.’ Like, just be different. We are telling children very early on, be different. Don’t act like how you feel or how you feel is wrong. So that is something that we have to be mindful of.”

Jacobs highlighted that the impact of such societal conditioning extends beyond childhood, affecting individuals as they navigate adulthood. 

“And you know, when men tell boys to do that, they’re trying to protect them from people reacting to them, right? Sometimes they’re just like, ‘If he’s crying, people are going to beat him up. They’re going to think he’s soft’ and look how it’s going to happen. And then it just becomes a cycle in and of itself. So this is a challenge we have to face, like in schools, as parents, in our community because you know, it might not, you might be doing a good job with your child, but they’re getting a million messages when they set out your door.”

Jacobs, during her remarks, alluded to the need for a shift in societal norms, advocating for a more inclusive approach to emotional expression for boys and men. 

 She mentioned general changes in behavior which indicates mental health struggles which persons close to an individual should pay attention to. As understood from her, in attempts of coping with such challenges, some people withdraw from social activities while on the flip side some people start going out a lot as well as altered eating habits whether eating more or less, negative talking and changes in personal appearance.

 “[Pay] attention to changes in behavior…whether a person has stopped going out and that’s not what they’re doing. Sometimes you might see it in people who never used to go out and because they’re just looking to feel something, now all of a sudden they’re out and they want to be in  things and that’s because they’re struggling with what’s going on inside.”

“Sometimes it’s changing their eating habits. So if you find that the person is, all of a sudden, they’re eating all the time or they’ve gained a lot of weight that might be a sign that they’re struggling with depression. For some people, it’s the exact opposite. They’ve stopped eating, right? And you see them losing weight and, you know…It might be dieting, but sometimes it’s not, right? Sometimes they just have stopped eating. So if you’re close to the person, you can pay attention to that kind of thing. Another thing, and I know this is kind of basic but they start to just say very negative things; there’s a hopelessness about them…,” she stated.  

Jacobs went on to say: “So if this is a person who used to, like, you know, look sharp all the time and you realize, you know, they haven’t gone -fade in a while… All of a sudden, they’re not quite exactly how they used to be. They used to be interested in how they look and all of that has changed.”

In relationships whether romantic and friendship, it is understood that shifts in behaviour such as increased substance use may be indicative of underlying emotional challenges.

“I would even say for people who are in relationships and this could be a friendship, too, if they started drinking or smoking or other pilling, whatever things, more than they used to,” Jacobs said.

Options for seeking counselling outreach include the National Counseling Center at contact numbers 465-5000 and 662-8086, and also the St. Kitts Mental Health Association Facebook page for a listing of providers.

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