It’s time for us men to wake up and get real about mental health. We need to start talking about our overall wellbeing, not just our physical health. Because of the stigma associated with mental health and how it is perceived in society, many of us suffer alone and in isolation with our illnesses. We keep things to ourselves as we feel people will say there is something wrong with us, that we are crazy or that we are weak.
Conversations among men need to change. We need to move past the superficial chats about Manchester United, Conor McGregor and exaggerated Tinder encounters. We need to start talking about our feelings.
Young men are four times more likely to die by suicide than our female counterparts. This is a fact. Interestingly enough, young women are four times more likely to engage in non-fatal self-harm. Both sexes suffer in equal measure from poor mental health but it it’s the lethality of the manifestation of men’s mental health that is so tragic. We don’t talk, we terminate.
As a result of societal norms, we can be the last to speak up about our struggles. This originates in our warrior mentality. Historically, men saw other men as friends, foes or unknowns. Strong men traditionally killed their foes. Society lauded, rewarded and elevated these strong men. Weak men were pitied, ridiculed and ostracised.
We need to move past the superficial chats about Manchester United, Conor McGregor and exaggerated Tinder encounters
As a result, men in modern society find it almost impossible to ask for help as this would suggest a personal weakness. Men feel pressure to be the tough guy, the strong man, to show that we are infallible. As a result, we keep our feelings to ourselves and suffer in isolation even though our emotions are valid, real and significant.
This is equal parts ridiculous, hypocritical and dangerous. We all know how we all feel but none of us are comfortable talking about our problems because we don’t want to show weakness in front of our peers, who ironically enough could potentially be suffering from similar issues.
There is nothing abnormal about men experiencing mental health issues. Health is health and we all have it, good and bad. Nobody, regardless of gender, is immune. That person does not exist. Our reluctance to discuss our issues perpetuates the problem as we choose to suffer in silence and in isolation and this turns potentially manageable situations into tragedy.
Men feel pressure to be the tough guy, the strong man, to show that we are infallible
It’s okay not to be okay. Nobody’s perfect. Why are we pretending to be? There is no such thing as Superman.
If you are a male student reading this and you are currently struggling with your mental health, I encourage you to speak with a friend, family member or even a trusted lecturer. Do not keep your pain to yourself. Mental illness is difficult enough to fight without having to suffer in isolation. Opening up about our struggles with mental health doesn’t show weakness, it demonstrates strength.
If you do not need someone, be someone. We are all in this together and we need to start talking. A problem shared is a problem halved. Let’s show compassion and empathy towards one another. Let’s share love and understanding.
Let’s be warriors of the light.