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Mental Health Awareness Week: What does it mean to be a man?

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It’s a good question, one that many different people and cultures can interpret, but the overarching idea is that a “man” is strong mentally & physically, financially stable and independent. This of course leads to Men-tality, the idea that you have to be all of these attributes 100% of the time, which is ridiculous and a stigma of society that has been around since humans first roamed the earth.

Most male role models these days are burley strong men who can take on the world. For instance the recent Marvel boom of superhero, which names like Captain America, Iron Man, Starlord etc. have become house hold names and what many boys and men alike look up to, as they demonstrate the embodiment of what a ‘Man’ should be.

The consistent theme in Marvel is men who have the bodies of Greek Gods, who are immovable forces who save the world (even universe!) one manly punchy at a time. I’m not saying this doesn’t make for great movies, because to get lost in the fantasies of these mythical men is more than exhilarating, however that is how it should be viewed, as a fantasy.

Any normal human in those situations would have not made it past the title card, however going away from the cinema, the men always feel they need to replicate what they saw on screen. Whether it be the infinite wealth of Iron Man, the toned abs of Captain America, or the confident leadership of Star Lord, these are all manly features we crave for in our lives.

However these male role models never get humanised as average people, they are giants among men and you can see this throughout a lot of media, representing the ‘Man’ image. In most stories a man is the one supporting his family, saving the damsel in distress, powering through impossible odds. So when it comes to real life and men can’t face their normal day to day challenges, bills, relationships, fitness etc. they don’t feel like a ‘man’

They feel less than a ‘man’ they feel weak, pathetic and useless, so when they face failure they can’t admit it. To admit to it, would make them give up a huge part of their identity, their Men-tality. It’s not that they don’t want to talk about their feelings, it’s that they can’t. They feel as to do so, is to admit defeat, to be vulnerable and emotional, qualities that a ‘Man’ is not.

This of course has led to some disturbing figures, in 2013 alone 6,233 suicides were recorded in the UK aged 15 years and older. Of these 78% were male and 22% were female. It’s also been recorded that women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problems. The statistics shows how well females deal with their mental health problems, they talk about their issues, and they share what is wrong. A man however bottles it up, they don’t talk about it because to talk about it, is not being a ‘man’.

This is why the stigma needs to be removed from society, and luckily it is. More men are coming forward with their stories of depression and there has been real progress in the Men-tality movement. This will of course take time and effort, but with help from friends, family and medical professionals, Men-tality can be a thought of the past.

Even today in the media, the Men-tality stigma has been brought to light. No more so than in a recent episode of Coronation Street, where Shane Ward’s character Aiden, who was suffering from depression, decides to go to the Rovers Return with friends and family who are all drinking merrily. In the scene, Aiden tries to discuss his issues, he reaches out to his friends and family to no avail asking to just talk. However it goes unnoticed and Shane Ward goes home and breaks down, his attempt at communication has been completely ignored, something that took all of his courage to muster in the first place only to be ignored. This then leads to Shane taking his own life, which fans and critics alike felt shocked and saddened by the characters sudden death, commenting on how no one saw it coming. Representing how men in the real world suffer, but feel constrained to speak out.

If you are not feeling your best at the moment, male or female, please don’t hesitate to come forward to anyone you feel confident in being yourself around. Whether it be your partner, your friend or anyone who you trust, please don’t bottle it up, talk about it.

If you are struggling to talk to a close relation, there are helplines that are approved by the NHS as well available for anyone and everyone.

Samaritans
Call 116 123

Email jo@samaritans.org
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
Call 0800 58 58 58
Recent Comments
Dear trem ogley, thank you for writing this article. it is helping to shed light on a problem that has plagued mankind for a long time. i fully support you message and i hope others will come forward to help tackle the problem also.
gaz, 28/05/18
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