Don't reprimand your son for sobbing over a problem he is facing or tick him off for behaving like a sissy. It would only make him bottle up his emotions and lead to serious implications on his overall well being. Experts say men are more vulnerable to mental illness and depression than you would imagine.
Praveen Thapar, chairperson of the Sanjivni Centre for Mental Health, said while it's true that women are more prone to depression, it's equally true that women are better at sharing their emotions and problems than men - as a result most men keep their problems to themselves which has serious implications later.
"In our society we co-relate the word man with power. From the time he is a child, a boy is told not to cry 'like a sissy' and be strong. Thus from an early stage he grows up with this learning that he should hide his emotions behind a serene face," Thapar said ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10.
"This however can have serious implications later in life. This habit of bottling up one's feelings and frustrations may lead to a breakdown later," she said. Akhila Vasudev, a counsellor, agreed.
"While women are more open about their problems and emotions, with men, even when they are with friends, the discussion rarely goes beyond the football match or finances. Often it's because they have been moulded that way.
"A number of male patients that I have therefore admit that they feel much better after simply talking about their problems. It helps that I am a stranger, they say. Opening up in front of the family is harder," said Vasudev.
Quoting an example, Thapar said at a post-retirement conference that she attended recently, all that was being discussed about was how to manage your finances. "Post-retirement phase is a different experiences altogether. You have more time on your hand, your expectations may increase, you may feel worthless and useless sitting around - but all that the men talked about was finances," she said.
According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), mental illness will be the biggest health risk in India by 2010.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) further says that while 20 million Indians suffer from major mental ailments, 50 million suffer from milder forms. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and hysteria are all mild forms of mental illnesses which people often ignore, experts say.
According to R.C. Jiloha, head of the department of psychiatry at the Maulana Azad Medical College, among the most common form of mental disorders that men suffer from are anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder.
"Because of an increasing awareness on the issue, I have a lot of men coming to me for counselling. But the best way to tackle this is for the corrective measures to begin in the families itself," Thapar said.
"Parents should interact more with their children and encourage them to be themselves. They should not have a different attitude towards their sons and daughters," she advised.