• Dean Middleburgh

Boys Don't Cry

‘Man up?’ I think the term you’re looking for is ‘Man down’

Lads, boys and girls I think it is about time we talked about mental health.


Despite the emphasis on raising awareness of mental health and educators doing their utmost to get their guidance out in the public domain, more men struggle to come to grips with these devastating disorders.


Mental health problems don’t discriminate against one gender over another; in this way, they are colour blind and unable to differentiate a person based on their ethnicity or background. Despite this, it is impossible to shy away from the statistics that tell their own story: suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

Why are men more likely to commit suicide compared with any other group?


In this article, I want to focus on our social conditioning that is detrimental to this growing trend among young men. One of many factors directly linked to this trend and the social constructs built around us.


The social construct I refer to has been around for centuries and has a significant bearing on how men should be perceived and act. In the years that have gone by, society has dictated men are strong, able-minded, emotionally inept beings who are somehow impervious to feelings.


This social construct has such a strong influence on people that it is partly why some men feel they are unable to open up and discuss their issues. In addition, emotional traits such as sadness, insecurity, and fear are dressed up as a sign of weakness.


Crying is an emotion that men are not comfortable expressing. They have been encouraged to hold back their tears and ‘suck it up’ for pride or reputation. These unwritten rules run so deep within our psyche that to be seen crying in public is described to be feminine, homosexual, or childlike.


For many men, this process isn’t conscious but an automatic impulse that happens automatically. When emotions begin to spill over, most men do everything they can to hold back the tide and put on a brave face.


It doesn’t help when the role models in our lives have such an archaic ideology when it comes to mental health. There is a frequent comparison drawn between millennials and those brave young lads who went away to fight in the trenches over a hundred years ago.


Despite the horrors these soldiers witnessed, the young men of that generation embraced the ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality. As a result of this cultural norm, the proud men who returned home would silently look over their shoulders as the shadow of war followed them to their graves.


These men wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing what they had seen with their loved ones. Instead, they refused to burden their feelings on those close by. But, this ideology would unknowingly imprint on the generations that followed. Young lads would look up to male role models in their lives and imitate their actions.


Although men of my generation never went to war, it doesn’t mean that those living in the 21st century are immune from the pressures we face in an unpredictable fast-changing world.


Unlike most battles, mental health problems are difficult to detect. Many have described their experiences as fighting an enemy they cannot see. Trying to cope with these issues internally and without guidance inadvertently makes these problems manifest further. It is not until physical symptoms of depression arise that most men feel they have no choice but to seek medical help.


Not only is this true for the person going through the ordeal, but for those on the sidelines who might not necessarily link someone’s change of behaviour with a severe mental health condition. There are many examples of people taking their own lives without anyone suspecting anything was wrong. In most instances, people suffer and suffer alone.


Another aspect that is concerning is the way we view mental health in comparison to physical health. For example, if you were to break your leg, the bone would need resetting, and a cast to protect the injury would need applying — leaving your mates to ink cock and balls over the entire length of the plaster.


There would be some discomfort and one or two awkward moments when getting out of the bath. If someone were to walk past you, they would physically see that you had been hurt and accommodate you the best they could. They may open the door for you and ask how you ended up hobbling on crutches. After 4–6 weeks of healing, your leg will be as good as new.


This attitude and mindset deviate somewhat from those suffering from mental health problems. But unfortunately, there are no clear indicators, warning signs, or bandages wrapped around the heads of those going through complete despair.


If mental health issues affect the vast majority of us in society, then why are we not focusing our time and efforts on trying to educate people further? Why are there mandatory classes for physical education and none for well-being?


Alleviating the pressures of mental health


You won’t be surprised to hear there is no magic wand to make this issue disappear. However, there are a few initiatives below that I feel could help those who are going through a tough period.


“Ask Twice”


This is one initiative from www.time-to-change.org.uk which looks at asking someone how they are feeling on more than one occasion. Many people say they are fine when they are not. This initiative gives people a second opportunity to open up and share their feelings.


Be There for Your Mates


Keep an eye on those who are not themselves. Try to create a safe space for people to feel comfortable coming forward and expressing their worries/concerns without fear of being judged.


Communication is Key


Try to talk about your problems and avoid bottling up your emotions. If you find it difficult to talk to someone start writing down your emotions on a bit of paper and remember you're not alone in the way you feel. Millions of people are going through something similar.

Acknowledge What Triggers Certain Emotions

Try to identify what affects the changes in your mood and look to tackle these issues by changing lifestyle choices.

Summary


I believe that now is the time for men to rally around one another and be more open to the challenges they are facing. Our generation should look forward to new and innovative ways to help those going through such hardship. We need to be the pioneers who start dismantling these ridiculous social constructs silently influencing our behaviour.


Reach out to someone, no matter who it is, and express everything you are going through. Vulnerability equals reliability, and the chances are the person you are speaking with has been through or is going through something similar.


Please remember: Don’t ever feel you have to suffer in silence.


‘Man up?’ I think the term you’re looking for is ‘Man down’

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