By Sy Mukherjee
January 11, 2019

Happy Friday, readers!

I want to take a little break from the deluge of JPMorgan Healthcare conference news to explore a fascinating—and controversial—new development in the world of mental health.

The American Psychological Association (APA) earlier this week released extensive new guidelines meant to foster better mental health for boys and men. And a large part of their recommendations, based on four decades of research, are based on what the APA experts say can be a prominent source of stress, anxiety, and poor outcomes for males: The pressure to conform to normalized standards of “traditional masculinity.”

Just what does that encompass? “[A] particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence,” according to the report.

These guidelines have, perhaps unsurprisingly, rankled certain political factions who slammed the APA for ostensibly promoting a political agenda. Cable news talking heads and outlets such as the National Review sharply criticized the idea that “traditional masculinity” may prove unhealthy as a form of anti-male hysteria.

But APA officials defended the report and pushed back on critics who say it aims to punish boys for, well, being boys, noting that it was meant to address issues such as aggression, discrimination against young men who don’t conform to a set of normative characteristics, and the ensuing mental (and societal) harms.

“[B]oys and men are overrepresented in a variety of psychological and social problems. For example, boys are disproportionately represented among schoolchildren with learning difficulties (e.g., lower standardized test scores) and behavior problems (e.g., bullying, school suspensions, aggression,” wrote the authors.

“Likewise, men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault). Despite these problems, many boys and men do not receive the help they need.”

The APA’s guidelines sit at the nexus of multiple complicated societal and public health questions. Regardless of one’s personal views, those questions are well worth considering.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


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