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The toughest battle of all

Source: Sammie Vasquez (via Unsplash)

by Sarah Harris

Every year on the 19th of November, the world unites to celebrate International Men’s Day. Like International Women’s Day, the purpose is to improve gender relations and promote unity. But since the day was first celebrated in 1991, how far have we really come in opening up and discussing men’s issues? According to statistics published by suicide prevention charity, The Samaritans, men in the UK are three times as likely to die by suicide than women. 

The Dunelm Store in Nottingham was just one of many workplaces that participated in International Men’s Day. Staff at the store took part in an activity that allowed them to praise their male staff and compliment them throughout the day. An employee of the store said, ‘I felt like it was nice to hear what people have to say about you and it makes a change from everything always being focused women. Although Women’s International Day etc. is great, it’s nice to know that men are also appreciated in society.’ 

“Even the men who speak out and ask for help aren’t taken seriously”

Despite how far we’ve come in terms of gender advancement, there still remains a stigma around male mental health. As a result of wanting to seem ‘tough’ and ‘manly,’ many men bottle up their emotions or simply deal with them on their own, which leads to a vicious cycle of self-doubt and poor mental stability. But even the men who speak out and ask for help aren’t taken seriously. 

I asked a Master’s student in the University’s School of Engineering whether he thought this was the case. “The short answer is yes, when I have asked for help from people when I’m struggling, probably nine times out of ten I get nothing. I’m either ignored because they think my problem is minor compared to what they or other people are going through, or I’m flat out told ‘man up’ and find my own solution, sometimes both. When I was speaking to my mum about this, her response was ‘well men just don’t talk, that’s the problem’ which in some cases is true, but like I just said, most people I’ve reached out to for help don’t even register that my problems are even something worth caring about.”

“It is hard to change the views of previous generations”

So why is it that we’re so dismissive of male mental health and what can we do to change this? Of course, days like International Men’s Day are a step in the right direction in promoting awareness and encouraging change, yet how do we completely abolish the stigma. Maybe as generations go on, things will get better. After all, today’s youth is as open and vocal about mental health as ever thanks to the power of social media, but it is hard to change the views of previous generations who may not be as open to the concept. 

One thing we can do is make it a safe and comfortable environment for the men in our lives to talk about their issues. When was the last time you asked any of your male friends how they’re really doing? Well, there’s no better time than now to find out what’s really going on behind the curtains. Talking about your issues can make an unexpectedly huge difference.

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