HeadsUp Digital Media Officer, Rahul Mathasing, brings you an insightful long read discussing Male Mental Health Month.
~ (trigger warning that there are discussions on topics of Mental Health and suicide) ~
November as a month actually holds a lot of interesting things. Aside from ushering in that iciest of seasons, commonly known as winter, there are a few specific things to note.
Bonfire night; where we remember and celebrate the foiling of a terrorist plot by enjoying what are essentially sky explosions.
Remembrance day; so we never forget the sacrifice made by so many brave souls who have fought and risen against tyranny and oppression.
St Andrew’s Day; mainly for the Scots this one, but important nonetheless.
And, of course, we concern ourselves with raising awareness for Mental Health issues, specifically for those identifying as men, or male.
Why on earth is this important? Mental health is mental health, right? How can gender possibly affect that?
Well, the truth is that everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health, and everyone will experience their journey of mental health differently. The reason we possibly still have to emphasise the men in our community is largely because of our societal hang-ups. Though we are seeing so much positive net movement towards greater freedom of expression and comfortability in self-identification, there are still some areas of society where outdated ideals and conventions are causing some issues.
The proof is in the stats. Data from The Office of National Statistics shows us that around three-quarters of suicides in the UK are men and yet men are less likely to access psychological therapies.
But suicide is the extreme, explored when the only option you see of dealing with your world is to exit it completely, I would know – I tried it twice.
So what’s the path that gets you there? Let’s paint a picture with some more stats and analysis, courtesy of Men’s Health Forum.
- Men report significantly lower life satisfaction than women, according to the government’s well-being survey.
- 73% of adults who ‘go missing’ are men
- 87% of rough sleepers are men
- Men are three times more likely to become alcohol dependent
- Men are three times as likely to report frequent drug use
- Men make up 95% of the prison population
- Men commit 86% of violent crime but are also twice as likely to be victims of violent crime
and then, sadly, looking at younger males:
- Boys are around three times as likely to be permanently excluded, or receive a fixed period exclusion from School
- Boys are performing less well than girls at all levels of Education
All of this only serves to highlight what we already know, and are trying to change: as it stands, men, from a young age, do not have the tools, knowledge, or confidence to effectively and constructively deal with deep emotional turmoil, and this has an extremely detrimental effect on their lives.
I have a three-step mantra that I’ve developed over the years as I have come to terms with my own difficulties, and it goes like this: Awareness leads to Understanding, and Understanding leads to Action.
Whilst awareness has increased so much over the last 5 – 7 years and people have banded together to support either friends, family, or larger society in the forms of charitable efforts – we still have a long way to go to reach Step 2, “understanding”.
There are countless people across the country and the world who have stepped up to join the voices of those who struggle more than others, and the level of openness has definitely improved. Individual stories are always helpful, and I always try to be as honest as possible with my own, but movements such as those run by the Movember Foundation, CALM, Mind, and the Mental Health Foundation, are key to the global shift towards understanding, and taking action to fight stigma and create real change.
Movember specifically started as a way to support the prevalent dire issues facing men: Prostate and Testicular Cancer, and over the last 16 years it has grown to include Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness. This is important for two major reasons: 1) It serves to raise the global profile and 2) It wholly equates Mental Health issues with serious physical ones.
Across the globe, teams of people or individuals will together raise millions to support causes from a number of charities.
In order to effect change, it is key to support men at crucial points in their lives. One of these being, early adulthood, which for many also means university. Generally seen as a breeding ground for socially liberal thought and an opportunity for peer-leadership, university should be a place where students are made to feel safe, and come to terms with themselves. Sadly this isn’t always the case. Whilst reform at the institutional level has happened, it is still impeded by the lack of support (and not just financial) at the governmental level.
This is where the peer-leadership comes in. Now here at Loughborough, Welfare and Diversity is an enormous section and pillar of the student experience. Within that sits Loughborough HeadsUp, one of the nine associations. HeadsUp is a student-run association focused on promoting positive mental health and well-being across campus through social media, campaigns, and events throughout the year. As part of the efforts for Male Mental Health Month, they’ve led a series of events, including 2-panel discussions, so as to continue to develop the conversation on Mental Health in those identifying as men, and why the stresses are so different.
Peter Cartlidge, the Male Mental Health Officer for HeadsUp, said: “When 75% of suicides are male, Male Mental Health Month is desperately needed to educate society and to educate men. Male Mental Health Month gives male mental health charities, such as CALM and Mind, a platform to highlight the need for social change regarding the way in which men are viewed. It provides an opportunity for men to educate themselves on what their mental health is, and how it affects men just like them every day. Male mental health is a chance for every son, dad, brother and mate to talk to someone who may need it most #menofmorewords #asktwice”.
I think we can draw some basic conclusions. The journey towards Mental Health freedom is very different across the multiple genders, mainly due to intersectionality and the other factors affecting different people, which is why an emphasis still exists on men. Whilst this landscape is a much brighter one than it has been previously, there are still far too many people stumbling in the dark. It’s fantastic to see so many dedicated campaigns appear now to help tackle the issue and provide the tools needed but the biggest way men can help each other, and help themselves, is to talk to each other. We are all stronger together, and it is only together that we can find our way into the light of understanding.
Featured image by Rahul Mathasing.