A strange gender gap: Men, women and writing about depression

As part of my marketing efforts for Redemption, I’ve been reaching out to other author’s in similar book categories, which means other Young Adult books which deal with mental health, depression and anxiety. These efforts are how you’ve seen some of the other Six Question entries.

The other day, I noticed something strange:

Let me give some backup here to that tweet: I just went back through my notes on other authors. I identified 115 authors who also had books in this category. Of those 115, only 18 were men; 89 were female, and another 8 either had names that could have been either gender or used initials (which often than not, means they are a woman – see J.K. Rowling, who went with her initials because her publishers were trying to disguise the fact that she’s a woman).

Anyway, that difference is massive: 115 authors, and a mere 16% are men!

What the hell is going on here?

This is just a hunch, but I think what I’ve found is a microcosm of society as a whole: Women are much more willing to discuss mental illness and emotions than men. According to research, both men and women are more likely to be viewed more negatively when they suffer from “gender atypical” mental health disorders. Additionally, according to a 2015 study, men are more likely to have negative attitudes towards health seeking, which results in a less significant uptake in using mental health services.

This blows me away. I mean, it shouldn’t – none of this is surprising, and intuitively, I think most of us recognize that women are more comfortable seeking help and discussing emotional topics than men.

There are so, so many issues facing women today. I’m so glad that, as a member of the human race, we are doing a better job at discussing vitally important issues like women’s equality and safety. But I think one of the things we don’t do a good enough job of – and my above observation would seem to back up this assertion – is discussing how these gender stereotypes also hurt men.

Please, please do not misunderstand me here – I am not saying, “Boohoo, but what about the white man, life is so hard for us, we are so discriminated against!” That simply isn’t true, and it is abundantly clear that other minorities and women have much, much tougher obstacles to overcomes than any white man does. It is also apparent that we, as a society, must do a better job at creating a more level playing field and changing our culture as it pertains to women and minorities.

But, I think it’s important to note that men can also be the victims of gender stereotyping and expectations – and clearly, this is one such example. What I would hope this observation would make us realize is that we must do a better job of working towards true equality in society – and men have many, many ways to benefit from achieving that ideal as well.

2 thoughts on “A strange gender gap: Men, women and writing about depression

  1. Women tend to be more biologically inclined towards communication and expressing emotions better than men. I agree that it’s very dangerous to force men to ‘hold in their feelings’ and not express themselves, which was a massive societal narrative throughout the 20th century of men being expected to just ‘man up’ and get on with things. Part of managing your emotions is expressing them in a healthy way – not over-reacting or blowing things out of proportion, but not repressing them either. Emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are.

    It is very sad that male suicide rates and depression surpasses women’s in the UK (and probably in the USA as well). I would disagree about you mentioning that life is ‘harder’ for women and minorities and ‘easier’ for straight white men; I think that is a very tribalistic narrative that is being wrongly sold to us in the mainstream media to coddle certain socio-political stances (and probably has a negative effect on young boys who are assumed to be ‘privileged’ based on their colour and gender, neither of which they chose).

    Life is difficult for everyone no matter where your background is and problems are all relative to our experiences. As a young black woman, I don’t at all feel that things have ever been ‘harder’ based on these tenants alone – I grew up in a wealthy first world country (UK) that has a national health service, and I was born into a time where racial and gender equality is highly prominent (maybe too overly-emphasised; equality is important but there are a whole heap of issues facing the human race today that need sorting out that surpass the question of needing ‘separate bathrooms for transgender people’).

    I don’t want or expect society to bend over backwards for me just because of these superficial parts of myself that have little to no impact on my day-to-day life. My anxiety is far more crippling than my skin colour or genitals ever have or will be. (Nor does my anxiety have anything to do with my skin colour/genitals). Likewise, young men should not be ‘blamed’ for being men or be expected to get on with things because society assumes that being a ‘straight, white, middle-class man’ means that you have no problems. Everyone has struggles.

    Btw, have read the first two chapters of your book, will get stuck in more when I have time; loving it so far! The prose is beautifully written and it’s very thrilling 🙂

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    1. Okay, first, yay! One of the authors who writes in the same topic I do! 🙂

      Yes, you’re absolutely correct in – well, everything you said. Suicide rates are higher for men in the USA, BUT, women attempt more. Men are more likely to die by suicide because the means in which they attempt suicide is unfortunately more violent. Access to firearms and suicide rates also go hand in hand.

      And thank you for such an in-depth comment. The perspective of people of color are lacking in the US when it comes to SO MANY areas, but particularly mental health. That’s one of the things I am working on in my job, and what I am hoping to learn more about with your book!

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