I believe in equality and it's something I spend time thinking about... working out new ways to try and reach out to people in need, help change perceptions or even reduce stigma shown towards different groups of people. Perhaps it's because I'm a vaguely nice person who wants to see a better world; or maybe it's because I've been on the receiving end of stigmatisation and feeling really alone due to my personal struggles. The thing about mental health problems is that they don't discriminate between genders, races or difference... perhaps in a way mental health problems are a wee bit more accepting than I've seen people be over the course of this week but maybe that's for a different time...!
One thing is clear... Men aren't socially programmed to talk about their emotions and mental health, even less so than women! I've experienced how challenging it can be to open up about your mental health, so I can begin to imagine the difficulties men must face. I was really inspired by Jonny Benjamin's stranger on the bridge story; you should check out his blog posts as they're so inspiring and are really demonstrating that it's ok for guys to try and speak out about their mental health. Over the last few years there's been a staggering increase in male suicides (78% of suicides are male). The statistics are scary, so it's really important we start breaking down some of the barriers that men are facing which are preventing them from seeking the help and support they deserve.
This years International Men's Day theme was to 'Make a Difference for Men and Boys'; through raising awareness of issues such as the high male suicide rate, men's health and mental health issues, negative portrayals of fathers and collective tolerance of violence against men and boys (including sexual violence and domestic abuse). I think all of these issues should be on the equality gender, no man should feel unable to talk about what's going on for them.
As a feminist, I find myself occasionally in a slightly uncomfortable position... I believe in equality for all genders, so it seems to make sense that I would support a day that raises awareness of the issues faced by men, but of course this goes against some feminist views so it ends up feeling more uncomfortable than I believe it should do. At work, our young people are hidden behind ambiguous usernames meaning I often wouldn't know (without looking at notes) if they were male of female... it's clear that there are a lot of issues that run across all genders and are faced by all of the young people we speak to. If we can develop a culture of acceptance where anyone's struggles are worthy of discussion and support, then perhaps we can get a grip on these issues before they become really deep seated and cause huge mental health problems. The Self Esteem Team started a campaign this year called 'Switch on The Light' encouraging men to start talking about their emotions and mental health. I will be making sure I check in with my guy friends, especially the one's I know who would possibly struggle to make their needs and difficulties known and therefore don't access the support they need when they need it.
Happy belated International Men's Day everyone!
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, remember that you're not alone and there is support available to help you. Contact Samaritans if you are struggling.
Originally posted on Kate's personal blog where you can see more ramblings and musings!