Men don’t cry, right?
Time to Change – “Be in Your Mates Corner” if your mate is acting differently, step in.
Many of you will have noticed there seems to be a particular emphasis on men and mental health at the moment. Notably about noticing if a male is struggling with their mental health and reaching out to them. The campaign currently running from Time to Change – “Be in Your Mates Corner. If your mate is acting differently, step in" makes a fantastic effort to engage men to look out for other men who may be struggling emotionally.
So why the emphasis on men?
Statistics will tell us that – for as long as suicide statistics have been collated – men have outnumbered women in deaths by suicide, yet women experience higher levels of depression. The million-dollar question that public health England would like to know is WHY?
If the answer to this question is found the issues can be addressed. However, the issues seem to be complex and some deeply ingrained in culture and beliefs - things that can’t be resolved in a short public health advert on TV or in a training session.
I grew up in smallish town that is often referred to as a “pit village” in County Durham. One of dozens of pit villages in County Durham with a strong history of mining that has seen communities devastated over the years by the decline in industry, sky high unemployment figures and poverty.
My own childhood saw periods of time when my Dad was out of work and we struggled as a family to survive financially. The template that I grew up with was one where the man was the breadwinner, the worker and the woman looked after the house and the children.
That was the culture.
We know that work provides us with a sense of identity, purpose, self-esteem and value. So is it any wonder that when this important source of identity and wellbeing for men is brutally stripped away and very little hope for any replacement that this chronic stress contributes to mental health problems for these men? Couple that with a North East culture that actively discourages men from showing any sort of emotional “weakness” and, encourages and accepts regular and excessive drinking at “Working Men’s Clubs” – oh the irony!
I remember as a teenager in the early 90’s when my Dad was experiencing a period of unemployment and he had been at “the club” telling me that there was not one Working Man in the Working Men’s Club that day at the bar - all were unemployed and in effect drowning their sorrows. These establishments, I believe, were probably the only source of emotional support my Dad sought out as there he could be amongst men of the same situation with the same worries and concerns. Unfortunately, it also provided a very unhelpful coping strategy that lots of men found became a problem. Or their families did.
So where do we go from here?
My belief is it is about culture change and that takes time and significant effort and no doubt many challenges. The question is how do we raise a future generation of males who feel comfortable to talk about how they are feeling, know how to look after their emotional health and be willing to seek help when needed?
This all starts in childhood, how our children are brought up through parenting and our cultures of how they should identify. To understand more on this topic, we recommend you watch an amazing documentary by the BBC called No More Boys and Girls, which clearly shows through research how we teach inequality to children from the moment they are born. This will surely reduce the volume of men who currently reach the crisis point where suicide is the only solution will it not? Maybe it requires a bigger shift on a societal level?
I don’t have the answers, however!
In my work with Be. The Centre for Wellbeing I feel I am doing my bit every day to erase the stigma and discrimination around mental health. Chipping away at a massive iceberg of silence, fear, misunderstanding lack of knowledge. I believe action on a micro level can make an impact on a macro level. Be The Change that you want to see in the world, it’s that simple.
If you have been affected by the issues discussed today or know someone who has the below contacts may be useful for you.
(Campaign Against Living Miserably) Charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Offering support to men of any age via helpline, webchat and website.
Info Line @ Mind can provide information on a range of topics. They can look for details of help and support in your own area. Local Mind Organisations can provide services in a callers locality.
If your business would like to become a Suicide Safe Community contact us to find out about the training we provide:
safeTALK – Suicide Alerter Training
Book your place on our December Course HERE
ASIST (Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training)
Contact Emily, Head of Workplace Wellbeing 0191 6913500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org