Listen up Dave (in an equation where Dave = reader), we need to talk about mental health, and since it’s World Mental Health Day now seems like the perfect time. Now I know you’re a Dude Bro Man and you hate talking about feelings, but I gotta tell ya that in actuality you don’t hate talking about your feelings, in fact you live for the stuff (literally), you’ve just been socially conditioned as a Masculine Dude Bro Man to think that you hate talking about your feelings. You’ve been brainwashed, Dave, and I’m trying to help you.
Thing is Dave, there is a culture in society that is killing men every single day. It is the culture of “man up”. A culture of “toughen up.” A culture that forces men to conceal their feelings and emotions so as to maintain that outer shell of masculinity. That outer shell that polarizes them from the ‘over emotional’ women that they share this imagined binary with. I know, messed up, isn’t it?
This culture has to end, Dave, it’s gotta stop, and it is the responsibility of all of us to bring about its ending. All of us. Including you Dave. Lemme lay some stats down.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men beneath the age of 45 in Britain. In 2013 it was recorded that there were 6,233 suicides in Britain, of which 78% were men and 22% were women. Despite this women are still more likely than men to suffer from mental illness, particularly anxiety disorders. Or, at least, that’s what data shows us. Data that is recorded via diagnosis. Data that is recorded via individuals speaking out about their experiences. If nobody shares their experiences, if nobody speaks up on their struggles or silent sufferings, then no data can be recorded. It is here the reason for this disparity becomes clear.
Do you see it now Dave? Not talking about your feelings is killing people Dave. You think you’re being ‘tough’ or whatever, but you’re actually just perpetuating a deep set social norm that men who talk about their feelings are ‘pussys’ or whatever the hell you guys say to each other.
Men do not talk about their mental health. Men do not talk about their feelings at all. And even if they do, it is usually done in such a way that it becomes jovial or dismissive. Women are encouraged to open up about their feelings and maintain a circle of sisterly friends that they frequently lean on (which in itself is a problem, but I’ll talk about that another time), whereas men are told to suck it up, to ‘man up’, to maintain an appearance of stoicism. This message is pushed by media in a variety of forms. Television, movies, video games, even the occasional news presenter on mainstream good morning shows (looking at you, Pr*ck Morgan)
Movies are filled to the brim with hyper-masculine male leads who hide their problems as opposed to challenging them, and even worse a majority of them romanticise the notion of ‘drinking away’ your problems. Whilst this may make a poorly written fictional character ‘gritty’ and ‘interesting’, all it makes you is an alcoholic, Dave. You aren’t in a movie, you don’t exist in an ephemeral timeframe where you follow a singular narrative until completion, you are living a real life as a real human in real time. Meaning, put more simply, you’re a sentient mound of flesh and blood that needs help to function sometimes. And that is okay. Because it has to be okay. Because that’s how it is.
Your brain is an organ, like all your other organs, and it needs help sometimes. There are tons of biological explanations for depression and anxiety, and I’d link you to a few except google is right there Dave I don’t have to do everything for you. The fact that mental illness has biological explanation means it is something individuals cannot help by ‘thinking positive’ or ‘manning up’. It’s patronising. It’s insulting. It’s bullsh*t, Dave, it really is. We both know it is.
Can you imagine if we treated mental illness the way we treat physical illnesses? Oh, hey Cassidy, heard you got a tumour. That’s a real shame, but have you tried thinking about rainbows? Cassidy, don’t be selfish, give it a shot.
Do you see, Dave? Cassidy can think of rainbows all she wants, she still has a third limb popping out of her torso. Amazingly, illnesses remain regardless of what pleasant meteorological phenomenons one may think of, or any other frivolous thought for that matter.
So what can we do about mental illness? How do we help?
Great question Dave
We help by encouraging those around us to share their feelings, and not judging them for it when they do.
So if Phil hits you up with a text saying he feels like he’s purchased a one way ticket on the depresso expresso, hear him out, ask him if he’s alright, ask him if he thinks he needs to speak to someone. Just be a good friend Dave. And don’t call him a pussy either, you misogynistic tw*t.
But In All Seriousness
We need to destigmatise mental illness. We need to destigmatise talking about our feelings. We need to encourage openness, honesty, and reciprocity of sensitivity when it comes to these things, because until we do people are going to continue to suffer alone and in silence when all they ever needed to do is reach out to someone they felt they could trust and explain their situation.
Suicide is entirely preventable, and it is on all of us to create a society where those suffering feel they can come forward and express themselves without fear of repurcussion.
Now go tell your friends you love them, Dave, shout it loud and clear.
No, not me, Dave, we don’t love each other. Go tell someone else, alright?
Now get outta here
For more information on World Mental Health Day or mental illness in general, please visit mentalhealth.org.uk, or visit their World Mental Health Day page direct https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.