What makes a man? Nowadays, a man is a male who takes the "masculine" approach to handling setbacks by bottling up their emotions in order to avoid showing signs of weakness. Should that be the case? Absolutely not. Why should men be afraid to express how they are truly feeling? Why should something like crying and wanting to be comforted be a sign of weakness for men? That should not be the case at all. Because who knows what damage it could do in the long-term.According to menshealthforum.org.uk:
- Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 25.
- A staggering 76% of suicides are male suicides.
- An eight of the male UK population is suffering from a common mental health disorder (that is the equivalent of approximately 4 million men).
- Men are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. For alcohol, men are nearly three times more likely to become dependent on it than women.
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies.
- Men have significantly much lower life satisfaction than women.
- 73% of adults who go missing are men.
The stats do not lie. Why are men so afraid to express their emotions? The simple answer is they have always been told to "man up" or "take it like a man". What exactly is "manning up"? What exactly is "taking it like a man"? Why should men have to not say or express how they truly feel and keep it to themselves instead of potentially saving themselves from long-term mental damage? It has always been like this. Over time, from their youth to adulthood, bottling up their feelings does not become something men have to do, it becomes something they are used to. And when men begin to suffer from depression and/or anxiety, the above stats become more and more unsurprising.
When I was at a low ebb, all I wanted to do was scream and shout and cry. But I could not do so because I was scared to express how I felt and learned to hide my feelings and keep a brave face. Instead, it just made things worse. I could not think straight, I became more dissatisfied about the future, and I did not believe that I was brave enough to conquer my mental illness. Depression is a very difficult thing to talk about for any gender. But for men in particular, it becomes a lot harder to talk about because most men are afraid to lose their masculinity and what makes them what they are now. A fear that should not be there in the first place.
If you are a man and someone sees you upset, do not try and hold it in. Whether that someone is a stranger, a friend or a family member, try your best to tell them why you are upset. If you are talking to a stranger, do not be scared to talk to them because you do not know them, because they could be very helpful for you. The kindness of strangers can go a long way. If you are talking to a friend and that "friend" really is a friend, he or she would care about you and will always support you. If not and they tell you to "man up" or "take it like a man" or something similar, do not waste any more time with them. If you are talking to a family member, they would - and should - always support you, no matter what. Even one little tear can be enough for others to give you the support you need.
Men are becoming more and more afraid of talking about how they feel, or even shed a tear. If this carries on, the stats will worsen. If you see a man seemingly feeling low, ask them how they are. It will help them become more comfortable to talk about they are feeling because it will give them the belief that people care about them. The expressions "man up" and "take it like a man" should not be used to tell a man, or even a little boy, to hide their feelings. A true man should not be afraid to express their emotions. A true man should not be afraid to cry. A true man should not be afraid to ask others to help them when they are in need. A man crying and talking about their feelings is not a weakness, it is bravery. Do not be scared to be brave.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
To blog for Building Modern Men, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here