It's Time To Talk Men's Mental Health

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Suicide is a silent killer that lives amongst us all. My dad was 36 years old when he decided that suicide was his only option, and hung himself. Everyone in my family felt that his decision was weak and cowardly and that for some reason his poor mental health made him less of a man, because of course men must be fuelled by nothing but masculinity. At the time, these views seemed adequate, but then again I was 13 years old. But with time and experience, I began to notice that there is a negative stigma attached to the mental health problems or suicides of men and boys, in comparison to women.

In 2015 in the UK alone, there was a total of 6,639 reported suicides, 75% of which were male, making suicide the most common cause of death amongst men under the age of 45. Men from low socio-economic backgrounds are particularly prone to suicide, due to a composite of issues, including, employment or the lack of it, the pressure to support a family, all while maintaining a macho image. Not to mention, their reluctance to acknowledge their mental suffering, let alone seek help. Many of us turn a blind eye on the fact that men make up a majority of the prison populace, a place in which those who suffer mental health problems are offered minimal to none support and therefore often result in self-harm or suicide. Over the last decade minimal change has been applied to the quality of our mental health services and our overall attitude towards poor mental health, now imagine how minuscule this change must be for men who suffer in silence because of the strong hierarchal beliefs still embedded in our society.

Although campaigns such as ‘Project 84’, which was named after the number of men who take their life every week, aim to tackle suicide amongst men, there is still very little support and if support is available for the greater part is inaccessible. Movember is a foundation which simply prevents men from dying too young. A foundation is an annual event, also known as No Shave November, during which men grow beards or moustaches in order to raise awareness about men's health, in particular, their mental health. Despite their success, little impact has been made amongst those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as many continue to conceal their problems.

Nevertheless, as said by the co-founder of Movember, Justin Coghlan, “We want to see men living with and beyond mental health issues, and all men taking action for their own health.”

See, men are considerably less likely to seek help when suffering from mental health. A variety of factors come in to play to cause this, such as, the deeply rooted stubbornness within men that has built up along the years due to traditional values, followed by societal ideals that men must never show weakness, and to top it all of the majority of mental health services are simply better suited to the needs of women and children. Research has shown that while women and children are well suited for medication or talk-therapy, men simply don’t engage in either, men favour action related therapy. As this enables them to channel their repressed emotions into something practical. If help isn’t available or doesn’t suit their needs, men are susceptible to harmful coping mechanisms, such as, substance or alcohol abuse, which ultimately deteriorates their mental health even further.

However, the main reason men won’t seek help is that traditional has led so many of us to believe that poor mental health is a sign of weakness, and according to tradition men must be the superior sex and therefore omnipotent. Customary beliefs have painted the idea that men are the bread-winners, who are always in dominating positions of power. Men must be powerful, successful, wealthy, this alone is a cause of poor mental health. This vast amount of pressure results in men feeling like failures, however, they can’t seek help because then the world will know that they failed as a ‘man’. This ideology is outdated, stupid and the main reason as to why our men today feel as though they must result in suicide to avoid disappointment and embarrassment. The projection of this toxic masculinity has created a generation of men who lack pride, purpose, and meaning to life if they do not fulfil their role as the man of the house.

Robert Krajkowki was in his early 40s when he decided to hang himself. See Robert had just lost his job and was forced to sell his car in order to pay the bills for the next few months, but as the few months went by he didn’t manage to find another job and couldn’t bare to tell his pregnant wife, Karolina Krajkowska.

“I wish that he had just spoke to me, I was fine with not having money. We always managed to make ends meet and it hurts me to know that his male pride stopped him from telling me he wasn’t coping with it all.” Said Mrs Krajkowska. After being raised in a household with traditional values, Mr Krajkowki’s aim was to be the breadwinner of his household, which he successfully managed for years but when things got unbearable he felt like there was no help out there for him. His wife was in therapy herself, “He hated the idea of it, it never made sense to him how speaking to a stranger could help you in a situation that they have no real understanding of,”

She continued, “No wonder he never tried to seek help, it’s not for everyone.” A recent Youtube show by the BBC, ironically called ‘Man Up’ surfaced in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. The show consists of 5 men discussing what it means to be a man in 2019 and the effect that has on their mental health. The interview is only 14 minutes long and within the first 13 seconds alone, Olu Maintain a freelance footballer goes on to say, “I find it impossible to cry…I can’t appear to be weak.” And that’s the heart breaking truth behind men’s men tan health, we simply ignore it, we make no room for it and expect our men to deal with it.

Public figures male figures speaking out on the matter is a good sign of progress, as it will allow the average joe to see that there is nothing wrong with feeling weak at times. Prince William has recently launched a new campaign at Wembley stadium, ‘HeadsUp,’ which uses football as a means to urge men to seek help when needed. This is the direction we should be heading in, understanding the interests and preferences of men and adapting our mental health services to their needs. These services must be suited to accommodate everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexuality or skin colour.

1 in 8 men have common mental health issues and yet every single one of them feels isolated and believes it is wrong for men to suffer from mental health issues. Instead of telling our sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers to ‘man up’ every time they show signs of weakness, remind them that weakness is a part of becoming stronger. Past research has suggested that men are more likely to utilise mental health services if they are more accessible and beer suited to their coping techniques. Raising awareness is one thing, but to strip our society of its orthodox beliefs is something we have not yet achieved. Until we do, men's mental health and suicide rates will remain paramount.

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