The men of Leeds told us when they last cried
Because boys do cry
Movember is upon us, and whilst a lot of us see it as a sort of funny gimmick – a whole month of taking the piss out of your flatmate whose idea of stubble is a speck of hair on his chin! – it’s actually a month where male health should be at the forefront of our minds. Specifically male mental health.
There are countless facts and figures about the alarming lack of support for struggling men. Men in the UK aged between 20-49 are more likely to die from suicide than anything else. 76% of all UK suicides are men. In general, men are far less likely to seek help, largely due to the overwhelming pressure to ‘man up’.
These facts, though heartbreaking, can sometimes seem impersonal and it’s often hard to comprehend the calamity of the crisis that is apparent in treatment of men’s mental health. So, I asked the men of Leeds when they last cried, to prove that men aren’t as steely and stoic as some people may think.
Peter, English Literature and Theatre Studies, 2nd Year
Matt, Comparative Literature, 2nd Year
“Yesterday. I cry all the time!”
Anonymous, Eng Lit, 2nd Year
“If I’m being honest – yesterday. Actually, no, I forgot. This afternoon”.
Danny, Physics, 2nd Year
“Freshers’ Week this year”.
Anonymous, Eng Lit, 2nd Year
“Sometime last month”.
Duncan, Politics and Parliamentary Studies, 4th Year
“During the ‘Stand up to Cancer Gogglebox’ two weeks ago when they showed a little girl dying”.
Anonymous, Biological Sciences, 2nd Year
“About three weeks ago?”
Matt, English Literature and Creative Writing, 2nd Year
“When I heard ‘Figures’ by Jessie Reyez for the first time two weeks ago”.
Luke, Journalism, 1st Year
“I watched Bridge to Terabithia again a couple of days ago and cried (as I always do) when Leslie died”.
The fact that we have a fair few “anonymous” men here speaks volumes in itself. Men are made to feel ashamed about crying – or indeed showing any emotion at all – in a way that women are not. Of course, the stigma around mental health prevails for all genders – I doubt any of us feel comfortable initially when opening up to someone for the first time – but men often don’t even get to that stage. They never open up. And that can take its toll.
Being “masculine” and being in touch with emotions are often presented as incompatible – but they aren’t. Looking after yourself; taking some time out; admitting that you’re not your best self at present and may need help; being there for a friend; bawling into your housemate’s lap: these shouldn’t be “gendered”. These are symptoms of humanity, not “feebleness” or even “femininity” as some seem to think. Even with physical illnesses, men are less likely to go to the GP for a diagnosis – some men would literally rather die than discuss their issues. We see this too, of course, with male suicide.
Men don’t need to “man up” or “be men”. A mindset that so rigidly reinforces the role of men as strong stoics and women as emotional hysterics needs to end – everybody loses out. Men desperately need to feel comfortable coming forward to talk about their emotions. We need to make that possible as a society.
Men don’t just “not cry”. The Cure were wrong – boys do cry. And that’s fine.