The ‘men’ in mental health
“Boys don’t cry” is a saying that stuck with me as I was growing up and worrying about my mental health. Men and boys are often taught to be ‘brave’ or ‘strong’ and that being open about our feelings is something that isn’t very masculine.Thankfully, this is now quite outdated with more conversation about mental health being prominent in football and rugby, as well as celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. Yet still, the conversation isn’t over, as more than twice as many teenage boys struggle with suicidal thoughts than girls, in a recent report.
What’s important to know is that talking about your mental health doesn’t affect in any way your ‘masculinity’, and that depression or anxiety doesn’t discriminate: it affects everyone. When I opened up about my mental health struggles quite recently, I was surprised at the amount of young men who had gone through similar experiences as me – completely silently.
After speaking with a few, I found that the appearance of strength is a big factor in why a lot of young men struggle to talk about or show their emotions. However, ‘strength’ in masculinity is slowly changing: because poor mental health isn’t a weakness. Surely isn’t it a strength to be brave and speak up about something seen as a taboo? Showing emotion and feeling isn’t ‘gay’ or ‘soft’ – it’s Human!
Think about a man in your life who you care about – perhaps a friend, father or step-father, brother, uncle or grandfather. If they were struggling, and felt they couldn’t tell anybody – wouldn’t you want to be there for them, or be someone they could talk to? Mental health is still a really difficult topic to talk about, but making that first step is incredibly brave. And you never know, by doing so you could inspire someone else to be honest about their mental health.
If you’re struggling and feel you need some support outside of family and friends, my first call was to my GP’s, who suggested I opened up to my parents and offered me some advice on how to do it. If you want some more things to read through, have a look on MindMate for some resources which may help you get the support you deserve, or take a look at some of these amazing famous men who’ve spoken about their mental health.
And, if anyone ever tells you to ‘man up’, just think why being a man should stop you from getting the support you need to be happier and healthier.