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.
Imagine if you will, someone who really has no reason to be depressed. What did you think of? A man? A woman? Someone whose parents aren't divorced? Someone whose parents are? A high-flyer? A young professional? A middle aged professional? Single? In a relationship? The Queen?
Huh. Bizarre isn't it, that if you think about it there isn't really a type. Which bugs me, because when an acquaintance of mine in University learnt that I was currently on a course of fluoxetine, or Prozac, for depression, the first thing he said was "What does he have to be depressed about?"
What irked me more was that in my experience, and with many other men too in my position, is that as a man you are told to man up, grow a pair, etc... And you will have read this over and over again, so I won't bore you with it...
Back when I were a lad, it seemed to me that my depression was a "me only" thing, as many people do. That feeling of loneliness is crushing. I only really realised when I went to University that I was definitely not alone in this, and that there were far more people who had mental health issues. I suddenly realised that although I felt alone during that time, I really wasn't. The switch that got flicked made me aware that depression, mental health problems, whatever doesn't discriminate on where you come from, where you grew up, what school you went to, what you study at university. It doesn't care, and people need to realise that. However, after having a sit down and a bit of a think, wasn't the main issue.
The issue was; no one wanted to talk about it and bring it to light.
Men aren't encouraged to share their feelings, which is a shame, because a good cry can be greatly therapeutic. Men are told to "man up", we're told that feelings aren't manly traits, that showing any kind of emotion other than joy when knocking back pints after a great tackle is shown on the rugby on TV is something to be forever hidden from the light of day. Frankly that's bollocks.
The time has come to make a stand. The time has come to stand up, as men, to show our feelings. They make us human. I don't know about you guys, but I'm not a cyborg incapable of human emotion. I'm a normal bloke who lives in London, works in Corporate Communications, and has a cat. I don't think any of those are discriminating factors, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Hell, I'll start: I cried at Marley & Me the other day, I got anxious about the ending of my contract at work, I felt that perhaps I wasn't cut out for corporate life and that I was going to end up being a failure to everyone who had supported me throughout my life.
It's hard to do, but you can do it. If you can do it, you'll never look back. Come on guys, we're all going to make it. Change can't happen until people make it happen, and we need to make it happen. It can get dangerous otherwise.
To me if you have the balls, the grit, the courage to admit that you may have a problem, that your feelings are just as valid as anyone else's; that is as manly as anything else you could possibly do.
That is what makes a man.
To blog on the site as part of Building Modern Men, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read our features focused around men, click here, and for more about our partnership with Southbank Centre's Being A Man festival, click here.