– Progress that has already occurred and solutions –
Men and mental health
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. In 2015, 75% of suicides registered in the UK were men. It’s important that despite all the great progress occurring we continue to push towards tackling this problem within our society. A campaign called ‘Project 84’ run by CALM (campaign against living miserably) in association with ITV tower illustrated male sculptures with hoodies covering their faces on top of buildings in London. It received a lot of attention, especially on social media. Consequently, CALM saw a huge increase in the level of sign ups and also, 34% more people reaching out in times of crisis. Surely such methods to bring
awareness to mental health in men are needed more often to continue the progression.
For me personally once I started to actually understand mental health in my mid teenage years, when I was about 16 and saw people around me dying, I began to develop a strong interest in understanding why such a large proportion of suicides in the UK are men. When I think of the people I have known personally who have commited suicide, 3 out of the 4 were young men. One of them mid 20’s and two of them were only between 15-17. It’s hard to imagine a young man, who hasn’t lived half of his life expectancy, suffering to the extreme level they decide to end their own life but that’s what bad mental health and mental illnesses can do. Just because it’s
not necessarily visible like physical health doesn’t mean the men around you are always feeling good or don’t have any issues going on in their life..There’s so many pressures that come with being a man in the current generation so make sure you check up on the men in your life as often as you can and when the environment/time feels right.
Here as just a few examples of the pressures that come with being a man in this current generation:
- Making sure you have a good financial status / letting people know that you aren’t broke
- Getting that promotion or job offer within your chosen industry
- ‘Providing for the family’ / holding things down – especially if no father figure is in then picture
- Having a certain body type / being a degree of hench
- ‘Boys/men don’t cry’ – a phrase a lot of us were taught from young – one of the reasons possibly why men bottle up their emotions so often
- People’s perception of their sexuality – it may be hard for homosexual males to open up to family and friends at times
- Difficulties venting to people (lack of close female friends or supportive male friends)
- The lad culture of drinking and getting litty – fitting into a certain lifestyle
There is so much more pressure that comes with being a man in this generation but these are just some examples male friends and myself have spoken about briefly.
I understand that masculinity, toxic at times, and how society has attached certain traits and behaviours to influence our perception of what it means to be a man play a huge role. It’s frustrating that men, who are young and under 45 specifically, feel so overwhelmed and unable to confine themselves in support systems that they cannot receive support to tackle their bad mental health and well-being.
Progress around men’s mental health
One of the highlights of my year, in 2019, in terms of friendships was one conversation an all male group chat of mine had. The reason being is it was so refreshing that a group chat that is usually purely banter and just funny the majority of the time changed for a short period of time. We are all different ethnicities, social classes and have different personalities. However, we have a common denominator which is that we are obviously all men. It was world mental health day /mental health week in the UK and for the first time in our 6-10 years of friendship we spoke
about men’s mental health and well-being. We spoke about different reasons behind why male suicide rates are so high, toxic masculinity, what we feel being a man is about and the conversation just had great substance behind it. All of us reminded each other that we are there to support one another and messages can be sent whenever in private chat, on the group chat or phone calls etc if we want to vent, talk about issues or just need someone to listen.
I remember that discussion as one of the highlights of our friendship as it showed so much growth, from knowing one another from early teenage years to having real, genuine conversations as men. It reminded me of the AJ tracey tweet ‘me and my G’s check on each others mental health. Gangsta ting’ but yeah more male groups having conversations and reminding each other they are there for one another is so essential to reducing the amount of male suicides.
In terms of some possible solutions:
- Sports is a great way of bonding – ‘Run With Purpose’ (runwithpurposeldn – on instagram) / Sands United Football team – both great examples of sports helping men with their mental health and providing a support system
- Male group therapy/counselling – from early in education, to university, to the workplace?
- Continuing tackling stigmas and allowing men to know it’s okay to speak about any issues they are facing – normalise this
- Early intervention strategies – not using phrases like ‘men don’t cry’ but instead let boys know from early it’s healthy and okay to express emotions or how they feel
Different solutions will work differently for different men as obviously not all men will go through the exact same experience, have the same issues in their life and be able to cope with different levels of pain. But, I feel like it’s great we as a society are talking more about men and mental health but let’s continue to push forward and break the stigma. Then, we can work on more solutions and ways of tackling the issue in more depth. And with that hopefully change occurs and we see a reduction in male suicide within the UK and around the world.
If you feel life you need support or want to educate yourself more on mental health:
Check out social media pages such as:
Themantalk (IG), Runwithpurposeldn (IG), Positivitythisway (IG), Papyrus_uk (IG) & celutionsuk (IG)
Also, as a reminder if you are a university student – talk to someone in your house/flat, a society you are involved in, a teacher/mentor or your university support centre. For students not at university yet – talk to a family member/member, a friend or someone in your school or college that you feel comfortable with. If you are at work, talk to someone in your workplace, in HR or a manager and see what support your workplace can offer you (it’s an obligation that they support
In general, for men, it’s our obligation to tackle this issue, break stigmas, stereotypes and create some really needed change. For women, check in here and there with male friends, family members like brothers, uncles, dad etc. I feel the last decade was great for progress but this decade let’s continue to make even more change.
Marley Ahmed is a talented guest blogger to The RealTalk Blog platform. Also the author of his own page, Let’s Talk Society, Marley digs into some of the societal trends and topics he feels more awareness and conversation should be had. We are happy to have Marley joining the RTB family, hoping you enjoy his posts as much as we do!