16 February 2021
Machismo is deeply ingrained in parts of South America and has real consequences for women, from sexist jokes to gender-based violence and femicide. But men don't fare well either. When studied, higher levels of machismo and restrictive emotionality were associated with higher levels of depression and stress.
The city of Bogotá decided to tackle both sides of the problem by opening Calma, a 'listening line' for men. The free hotline, which opened in December 2020, is staffed by psychology professionals and available seven days a week for men who might not otherwise talk about their feelings for fear of being judged. They can call Calma for a listening ear and emotional support, and the service also offers tools to counter the learned behaviors of machismo. Advice is offered on interpersonal communication, managing emotions and peaceful conflict resolution.
Calma's organizers hope the hotline will live up to its name, calming down callers before they find other outlets for jealousy, frustration or grief. Unfortunately, the need is acute. In the first three weeks after Colombia went into lockdown, calls to the government's domestic violence hotline increased by 142%. Hats off to Bogotá for not just addressing the immediate needs of victims, but seeking a long-term solution by directing attention to the mental health of potential aggressors, too.