We live in a society that is more health conscious than ever before, the drive to be physically healthy is ever present throughout our society. There is a great emergence of fitness programs, fitness coaches and specialised diets so that each person can achieve the results they want. It's great that this is happening and that people have the choice and information available to make positive change to their lives.
Lurking in the shadow of physical health, we have the less popular and less acknowledged aspect of - mental health. In some of societies circles the term mental health is a taboo, and should never be spoken of as it will likely end a conversation and result in all participants of the conversation looking at the floor until someone changes the topic (possibly to the weather?!).
This attitude towards mental health is not helpful for anyone. Our mental health is not something that can be ignored and for it to eventually 'go away'. It's fair to say that a lot of people have little awareness of what it actually is, and this lack of understanding leads to it almost being ignored.
As it has been said before, we are often afraid of the things that we do not understand. This view of mental health exists for many of the public, and we, as a collective, become cultured to respond in a certain way. In this instance, kind of ignoring our mental health and everything that it's about.
This attitude towards mental health or even talking about how we feel is further exacerbated when we specifically look at how males behave. Males are much less likely to talk about how they feel or even acknowledge their mental health. There is a strong stigma attached to mental health and the repercussion of it to our society is highly concerning.
The biggest cause of death for males in the UK under the age of 50 is suicide. This is fact. As I write such words a pang of sadness washes over me as it's evident we need to do more to help. The recent publicised death of Chester Bennington is an example of the issue at hand. This is how serious the issue is; people are dying because they aren't getting the help they need. They are taking their own lives, because ending their life appears to be the better option than living it. This is a huge concern, it's evident that something is happening within the individual that is causing some kind of difficulty for them. So unbearable that they must take their own life.
The topic of suicide is not a pretty topic, it's grim, dark and sad. I can't imagine the pain and suffering that someone must be going through in order to take their own life. As a 30 year old man I can think of at least 3 men I've known that have taken their own life in the last 10 years. This is happening, this is our reality - we need to change this.
It's a common stereotype that men don't really talk about how they feel and there is significant research that suggest this is true. This is part of our culture, most of us don't talk about how we feel, and especially men. Men are known to keep it all inside and rarely disclose what's going on for them. The stigma attached to mental health often implies that when we talk about how we feel we are showing a weakness. Examples of this could be: I shouldn't talk about it because people will think I am weak and will judge me. Or, people might think I'm crazy if I start talking about my feelings to them. Perhaps; I'm less of a man if I say something about my emotions. All of these examples indicate the perception of a negative judgement from others.
Sadly, we do live in a society that does judge men for expressing their emotions. Their pride or their macho-ism may be tarnished if they express that something has made them sad, or if something was on their mind. They may be considered inferior in some capacity. This kind of attitude towards our mental health is damaging our society. This is exactly the attitude that we need to challenge and work on changing. In addition to this, it must be acknowledged that a majority of people don't understand what it means to be mentally healthy. It's noted that on a societal level there is more work to be done around raising awareness of what mental health actually is. If people don't know what it is, then how can they even try to manage it in a healthy manner. We have the power to change this. Essentially, we have the power to save lives.
I invite you, the reader, to be a part of this future and to create positive change. The simplest thing that you can do after reading this article is to go and have a conversation with your husband/friend/dad/work colleague/football teammate etc, and talk about what's going on for them; and likewise what's going for you. I'm not suggesting you go and ask about their private affairs (as that could be perceived as nosey!). But what I am saying is to go and have that chat over a cup of tea, go for a walk, a bite to eat - check in with your pal. We're only human, and everyone needs to express what's going on for them. Talking about what's going on for us is the answer, we can promote positive change. The more men we have talking about how they feel; the better. Each man that commits to talking about how they feel results in us getting one step closer to changing the culture that currently exists. The more we do it, the more normal it will appear. We have the power to change this attitude, and I strongly encourage you to do so. There are some excellent national campaigns that are currently out there that are trying to raise awareness of mental health and what it is.
Here is a brief list of some:
Male suicide is a serious issue and one that needs addressing. The solution is not complex, it's beautifully simple - let's talk.
Rav has 10 years’ experience in working with mental health issues and is passionate about helping creating positive change. Having achieved his MA in Counselling Studies he currently practices privately as a counsellor in Cheshire, Warrington. Rav specialises in working with men and also those from BAME communities.