Stop treating teenage boys like bugs, it’s okay for them to show their feelings

To feel, or to die? Ask any teenage boy. Chances are they’d rather die than to show their emotions in public and appear “weak”.

Just like their fathers who mostly never showed much sympathy, they too, refuse to appear anything but stoic, ‘strong’, and apathetic. So, they push down on any emotion, leaving behind only dullness in their eyes and burning anger in their chest, waiting to be released.

They are shaped into society’s bugs, seemingly unfeeling creatures that live only to be stepped on and shooed away when in need of help.

An issue that is not discussed enough is societal pressure on teenage boys to bottle up their emotions because it is considered “weak” for them to feel anything at all. The world conditions boys to be tough and emotionless, whether through books, the media, family, or even peers.

However, people tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that it is extremely unhealthy for teenage boys, or anyone else for that matter, to suppress their emotions to cope with society’s expectations.

When it comes to mental health, the internal struggles of boys are often disregarded or punished. According to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association, boys were more likely to turn to substance abuse or anti-social behaviour, than being diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

Along with that, statistics have proven that suicide is extremely common among young boys. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention revealed that boys died by suicide 3.88 times more than girls in 2020.

In Malaysia, the 2017 National Health and Morbidity Survey found that while more teen girls thought about suicide and planned it, there was a higher prevalence of boys acting on those thoughts.

Stanford Children’s Health said teenage boys were four times more likely to die from suicide than anything else.

A 2021 research paper by Relate Malaysia titled ‘Youth Suicide in Malaysia’ concluded that suicide is the leading cause of death among youths in this country.

Another thing that people don’t seem to realise is that this problem doesn’t just affect boys, it affects everyone. Many teenage boys develop traits of toxic masculinity as they grow up.

Toxic masculinity is the need for boys to fulfil harmful masculine ideals, like violence and aggression, because often, the only socially acceptable emotion for boys is anger.

It is the reason why so many perfectly harmless young boys grow up to become abusers. This creates an unsafe environment for everyone.

Many people argue that without gender stereotypes, there would be a very weak division between boys and girls. Even so, why would this be a bad thing?

Without gender stereotypes, boys and girls would be equally respected in society. This would make it much easier for them to work together in communities, like school, and work settings.

According to BMC Health Services Research, women are still more likely to be associated with employment with lower salaries and lower positions. This wouldn’t even be a problem if the division between boys and girls wasn’t so strong.

Growing up, I’ve had to watch sweet, innocent kids I used to be really close with, either become violent and aggressive, or emotionally distant and cold. I’ve seen them slowly build walls around themselves just to feel accepted.

Society has turned so many people I’ve loved into bugs, stepped on and uncared for, all because they aren’t allowed to cry out for help.

So, I beg you to stop treating teenage boys like bugs. Let all the teenage boys be teenage boys with feelings of sadness and empathy. Raise your boys not to be men, but to be human.

To give the younger generation an avenue to express themselves, Twentytwo13 has a dedicated space called Young Voices. If you are a young writer (aged 17 and below) and would like to have your article published on our news website, send your contribution to editor@twentytwo13.my.

All articles must be accompanied by the young writer’s full name, MyKad number, contact number, and the mobile number of the young writer’s parents/guardians for verification purposes.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.