HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
If you live on the internet like I do then you can separate men into three groups. The beta males, who complain about being friend-zoned by women whilst simultaneously spouting abuse at any woman that dare speak their mind; the alpha lad, who would quite happily shout 'WAHEY' if someone dropped a pint in the pub; and the... let's go with 'gamma' to stay in the same misconstrued vein here... the gamma males, who just try to keep their fucking heads down, to be honest.
With so many male voices screaming their opinions into their keyboards, it's easy to see important issues get lost in the cacophony of nonsense. Serious issues become buried in self-important retorts and pissing contests. However, some issues are slowly managing to creep out into the daylight.
Male mental health has taken a step towards centre stage in recent months. An issue usually reserved only for analysing the perpetrators of mass shootings, mental health is making its way into every conversation, as men start to feel more comfortable talking about their aliments in a public forum without the fear of being labelled 'mental', 'crazy' or other ableist terminology. With the tragic death of Robin Williams in August of last year, the conversation of male mental health finally started to be discussed coherently on a particular forum that is usually reserved for image theft and puns. I, of course, mean Twitter.
Thousands of men identified with Mr Williams. Men realised that they could have it all, a beautiful partner and all the possessions they could need, and still feel completely empty. It was no longer something to be ignored, it was no longer something to be shrugged off. It was something to address. People began to have enough of being told to "cheer up" or "get over it". Real help was needed. Real advice was required. As male suicide rates rose, people talked and people discussed, and people wanted to help each other.
The stigma around depression is still quite real. Men still feel like they are supposed to hide their emotions, to suppress any feelings that aren't hunger or pint lust. There aren't many male role models that speak quite openly about their feelings. You don't see Jason Statham or Arnie sat on metal folding chairs in a white room, discussing life, the universe and everything. They are blowing stuff up. They don't have time to discuss that it's fine to be in touch with your emotions, unless it's rage or bad movie choices. I would probably have been able to identify my own mental health issues if an episode of He-Man had Prince Adam sat on the Northern Line, listening to Brian Eno and wondering where his life went wrong.
The hardest part about coming to terms with your own mental health is admitting that something might be wrong with you. In my own personal experience, when it comes to my own wellbeing I am extremely indifferent. Man flu? It'll pass. Possible cracked rib? I don't want to waste a doctor's time with that. That time I got gout from drinking rum for six weeks straight? I don't want to bother the NHS. So going to the doctor to discuss how I'm perpetually sad felt like a defeat. That's the mindset; saying that you're a little bit broken makes you look weak.
But shit changes. Men now wear tighter trousers than most women do, so should we feel isolated by our own brains? Fuck, no. We've got shit to do. As men, we need to spend our time hunting bears or dancing in the rain with our shirts off or whatever men are supposed to do. Not having an existential crisis at 3am because you can't find the last Hobnob, or having a panic attack on the tube because you put your keys in a different pocket than usual.
But, like with so many of these issues, there are people to talk to. If you can't handle talking to a doctor just yet, try one of the numerous charities that will be more than happy to help. If you don't feel up to that, try talking to your friends or your partner. Or simply try Twitter. Don't self-diagnose, don't jump to conclusions. Research, find meaning, there will always be people willing to help. Don't let other people's expectations of you make you feel like you're failing. You are not failing. You are simply you.
Just to leave this on a slightly lighter note, here are some very important diagrams:
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