Friday 9 June 2023

We need to talk about men’s mental health

No, really. We do. Too often it’s dismissed. Men are supposed to be strong. Not show weakness. Stiff upper lip, not let things affect us. The flip side of thinking women are too emotional or unstable for positions of power is not just thinking men are unemotional or stable but that they must be unemotional or stable. To be otherwise is not to be a man whatever the hell that really means. As if men can’t cry, aren’t allowed to be upset, aren’t allowed to have emotions or be affected by things or down or low or sad or. Human. Yes, human. Emotions are human. Feelings are human. Being affected by things is human. Finding things tough is human. Not having a bloody clue what’s going on or what to do next or why you’re sad is human. So we really need to talk about men’s mental health. 

Because too many of us kill ourselves instead of talking about our issues. Afraid we’ll get shut down. Told to stop complaining. Told to just get on with it. Or, how awful, told we’re being a bit of a woman about it. Or a bit gay. As if that’s an insult. As if women or homosexual men have a monopoly on legitimate feelings. As if you need a vagina or not to like them to be allowed to talk about those feelings. That we all have. Or we’re praised for being in touch with our feelings. As if that’s a compliment rather than normal. But then. In this world it is. Because we’ve been conditioned to shove them down, far away from the light of day, from the air they need to breathe before they suffocate you. So, yes. Well done for having feelings. You weren’t supposed to, but you do. Pat on the back. And you were brave enough to speak up, say something, to someone, anyone. Despite everything around you telling you not to do that. Not to be that man. Because men are not supposed to have feelings. 

But really, shush now. We get it. That was upsetting. But you're a man so get on with it now, you've had your moment, you've made your point, that's enough now. Don't you know men aren't supposed to have feelings, no really, they aren't. It's time to move on and face the next difficulty, but maybe this time do it with fewer feelings, less noise, more silence. Bonus man points if, when it happens, you can shake your head, tut quietly to yourself, say it is what it is and pretend to everyone, including yourself, like it hasn't just ripped your world apart. Because that's what it means to be a man right? Right? 

Obviously not. But that's what we're told. That's what we see. Hear. Read about. Women have feelings. They're too emotional. Too unstable. Too soft. Men. Well, men don't. And we need to talk about it. Because men, obviously, of course, duh, have feelings. Get sad. Are down. Are emotional. Lie awake at night wondering where it all went wrong before a small voice comes to them saying 'This is going to take more than one night' (with a nod in the direction of Charlie Schulz). If only we spoke about this more. Lived in a world that encouraged that instead of shutting it down, dismissing it. There is strength in being vulnerable. Knowing that it's okay not to be okay. Articulating how you feel even when it's hard. 

If you're struggling, know you can speak up. Please do. To a friend. To me. To a therapist. To anyone. And if someone comes to you. Please. Listen. Try your hardest not to judge. If you've got your own stuff going on (and we all do) that's okay too. Be patient with others but most importantly, with yourself. It gets better. But we need to talk about it.

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