Life seemed simpler years ago. It certainly wasn't easy, it never is but now with the evolution of social media and mobile technology it means there is seemingly no escape from society and it is becoming more and more difficult to let your mask slip off and be your true self.
We can all wear a mask of sorts and most of us young -to- middle aged men wear damn good ones hiding layers of insecurity and mental anguish that the world may reject us if they see us laid bare for all that we truly are.
The socio-economic pressures of what a modern man should be, should do and should become add to the mental anguish many of us face on a daily basis as the burden of acceptance weighs heavily on our shoulders. Too heavy for some. Man should be strong, man should be fearless with steely emotions with little to bother us and man should lead the way with no sense of fear or doubt. Why?
Modern man cannot and simply is not surviving under the weight of expectation of this stereotypical design. With suicide being the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 we are dying out at an alarming rate due to the increased mental stresses placed on us on a daily basis and every single one of us needs to face up to these problems and help redesign this stereotype.
One part of our society's redesign of modern man is already well under way albeit in an aesthetic way, in that one thing Modern Man seemingly loves is facial hair. Various types of beards, moustaches and sideburns have exploded back into our society and you have to wonder: are they are all part of the mask the modern man wears to shield himself from his daily burdens? An extra layer of rugged manliness to take the focus of what is really going on underneath in our softer more vulnerable cores?
Beards are most common place in various permutations and now that we are in the throes of Movember many people are sporting their best Magnum PI impressions and many of them stay year round. Our aim is to complete the facial hair trilogy revival and make the Sideburn the go to facial hair in our bid to tackle mental health and really face up to suicide.
We started The Sides of March http://www.thesidesofmarch.com campaign in 2016 after the tragic loss of one of our closest friends. We rallied together to try to create something good to help prepare more men for the huge battle against mental health.
The loss of my friend opened up emotions in me I never knew I had and I cried more than I had ever done before in a combination of sadness, anger, sorrow and anguish all surrounded by an immense sense of loss and what I felt at the time as a personal failure as a friend.
I think the level of emotion was so high and so powerful because the news was so completely unexpected. And therein lies the real problem. Modern man is not prepared for this on so many levels. The individuals who tragically feel they have no where else to turn to are not prepared. And most of the people in their lives are also unprepared. Unprepared to help and subsequently unprepared to deal with it when it is all of a sudden too late to help.
Society in general can not detect signs of mental health problems day to day in our men and are therefore powerless to help in many cases. Sure, many men still hide behind their masks pretending everything is "A-OK", everyday when its not and so it is hard for their supporting network to know and to help without being asked.
The battle the way we see it is two fold: making the mental health stigma go away and empowering men to be able to reach out and talk without fear of consequence. And secondly and as importantly, educating society on mental health problems so that we are better placed to notice and therefore better placed to help.
These issues are being tackled head on with more exposure than ever this year and the work by incredible charities like CALM http://www.thecalmzone.net and the Heads Together collaboration http://www.headstogether.org.uk, who we are thrilled to be working along side, is helping to slowly but surely change the face of how we view and deal with mental health problems.
This changing face of mental health in sync with redesigning the modern man is now filled with more beards, moustaches and sideburns all helping in this incredibly important fight.
The future is hairy my friends but hopefully a little less scary.