03/06/2015 06:25 BST | Updated 01/06/2016 06:59 BST

Male Suicide Is a Tragedy - But Don't Patronise Me About It

Here's some new words for you. MANTIP: The strategic disposal of a drink when you're trying to keep up with your mates. Or ADAMANT: To stubbornly and unhelpfully insist you don't need to talk about it. Got the idea? Or how about OPTIRINAL: The optimal urinal to use when entering a public toilet. There you are - language at its most blokey. Words for real men.

It feels like I see a new one of these signs every week at the moment. They're part of the #Mandictionary public awareness campaign known as C.A.L.M., or "Campaign Against Living Miserably". C.A.L.M. is a male suicide charity seeking to highlight the issue of suicide, which it does by inviting members of the public to invent their own "mansplanation" dictionary definitions (ones like "MANDATE: the beginning of a beautiful bromance") and then posting them up in public.


Figures on this are indeed pretty depressing. Suicide is now the biggest killer among young males, with around three quarters of all suicides male. Since men still tend to get better treatment than women in society in terms of wages, treatment, and about a million other things, you have to wonder what's making them so unhappy?

Not talking enough. Especially about their feelings. That's what C.A.L.M. believes, which is why #Mandictionary is as much about raising discussion as awareness. It certainly sounds plausible. Ever listened to two male adolescents having a conversation? It's like a pitched battle between two grunt machines - a series of wavering monosyllables interrupted by the odd stray falsetto squeak. To call it your voice "breaking" is an understatement; to me it felt more like your voice just emerged from a traffic pile-up. So perhaps it's understandable that boys don't find it easy to show much emotion. The nearest thing to an intelligent expression of nascent sexual yearning amongst the boys at my school was passing around a copy of Nuts magazine.

So #Mandictionary should be a good idea, right? Why not give the general public - well, men - the right to define themselves, talk about what "manliness" really means?

Here's my issue. For a start, men have already been defining manliness for quite a while - the last couple of thousand years as far as I'm aware - and they still have a lot of venues to continue doing so unchallenged, including most of the Internet.

But I have a bigger problem. The Calmzone website announces that "We think that it's time for men to define themselves on their own terms, say sayonara to harmful, boring and archaic male stereotypes". Men are trapped in a reductive idea of manliness, the thinking goes, that's preventing them from expressing themselves and driving them to despair.

Okay, that could be true - but doesn't this campaign end up perpetuating those very same stereotypes? If you want to challenge the idea that men are boozy, slobby kidults, why splash lad-mag definitions like "MANICURE: A fully loaded fry-up after a heavy night" (one of the contributions) over the country's billboards?

I understand that it's supposed to be funny. And fair enough, I've never really been one for blokey humour, so maybe I'm not the target audience here. But aside from the fact that I find some of these male stereotypes a tad patronizing, is humour really appropriate for a suicide charity? Red Nose Day and Comic Relief may use comedy to raise awareness, but they keep the jokes distinctly separate from the famines. I wonder if #Mandictionary's "fun" definitions risk trivializing a serious issue. You remember those breast cancer awareness memes circulating a few years ago that encouraged women to post their bra colour to Facebook? Like a male version of that.

As someone who's had a lifelong battle with depression, I know full well what a serious issue suicide is for either gender. But I'm not sure if crowdsourcing a set of "bloke jokes" and pasting them up around the streets is the answer. I think it's high time that neither sex should feel typecast every time they glance up at a billboard. Forgive the pun, but I guess that's my mandate.

Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. For more support and advice, visit the website here.