You don't need to have a degree to understand mental health. We all have one and we all need to look after it. You don't need to be a psychologist to be educated on the matter, however I don't disagree that it probably helps. Although there are many different mental illnesses, depression is one of the most common with 4-10% of people in England alone suffering at some point in their lifetime. So why is it that so many of us are clueless about something that is so common?
According to the Office of National Statistics, 6,233 aged 15 and over took their lives in 2013; a 4% increase from 2012. 4,858 (78%) of suicides registered in 2013 were male. Male suicide rates were three times higher than those of women, with the highest suicide rate by broad age group being men aged between 45 and 59 years.
I featured a quick poll on my twitter profile with a time limit of 2 hours asking "who has it harder in society?" just to include a (very) rough example within this piece. The poll came back with 47 votes which inevitable favoured that women have it harder in society with 65% of votes cast.
So if women are the ones that live a harder life thanks to societal expectations... why are men three times more likely than women to take their own life?
I'll let you think about that one for a little while because clearly we're going wrong somewhere. Are we so caught up fighting for women's rights that we've forgotten to look after the other 50% of the human population? Why is suicide still the single highest killer of men aged 20-49?
Depression comes in all different shapes and sizes and unfortunately more often than not goes hand in hand with suicide. Around 13 men will kill themselves today. It's time we started to address the fact that society is killing our men - suicide just gets the job done.
The thing with mental health is that you can't see it, which ultimately leads to the confusion and lack of education among the majority of people. You look at someone, such as Robin Williams, who had a fantastic career, a bank account full of money, a loving family, a happy marriage - things had to have been going great for him. But then one day, he commits suicide. That's when the questions start to circulate. "What did he have to be depressed about?", "so many other people have it worse than he did", "how could he be so selfish?", "how could he do this to his family?" - And the questions keep coming and going with every birthday and anniversary of his that passes. People start to think maybe he "wasn't all there", maybe he'd gone a bit loopy. You know, because mental illness isn't visible, it HAD to be something in his biological wiring that had gone wrong.
The very root of the problem is that our culture and our society tells people with mental health issues that there's something wrong with them. That there's an imbalance of chemicals in their brain and the only thing that could possibly help to sort this out is medication. The amount of prescriptions issued for anti-depressants has increased by 5 times since 1991 and with that, male suicide is at a 14-year high - so surely biology can't be the cause?
Why aren't we turning to our environment for answers? The frightening escalation in male suicide rates only emphasises the animosity society has towards men. Depression is the mind's way of alerting us that something in our environment is very wrong, meaning the devastating increase in male suicide rates only screams at us that something is very wrong with our society.
This all makes sense when you take a step back and just look at the environment you live in. We live in a society that not only has no idea how to grasp the concept of basic empathy but our society also doesn't care. In early 2015, Oxfam deliberated that one percent of the world's population owns almost HALF of the world's wealth. The political, social and economic state of our country is well on its way to completely alienating people and dividing opinions. And with that comes the stress men are put under by economic expectations.
Men have been conditioned to believe that their financial worth is synonymous with their value as a human being, that to be in competition with one another is healthy and that emotional and empathetic understanding are emasculating. These of course are considered "traditional male values" however society has changed so much in the wake of equality that men no longer want to conform to these social norms that are expected of them. This forces them to face two sets of opposing values, which thanks to society, they often fail at achieving - resulting in making them feel more worthless than ever. Don't lie to yourself, it makes sense.
There is still so much that needs to be done with regards to men's mental health, the stigma surrounding the subject still needs to be tackled and dramatically reduced and support needs to become more widely available. I believe it's time for us all to revaluate the beliefs we have with regards to social expectations and accept that men need help just as much as women do, if not, more. Instead of believing that women HAVE problems and men ARE problems, we should be encouraging environments in which men feel comfortable enough to seek help for their problems.
The solution starts with you and what you can do to help tackle the stigma. If the fact that men are committing suicide at an astonishing rate isn't making you ask serious questions about our society after reading this, I don't know what will.
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