Guys, it’s time to talk about male mental health
Boys do cry
Mental health is a taboo that nobody seems to talk about, yet it affects more of us than you might think. Studies suggest that poor metal health affects 1 in 4 people, but in reality, it's much higher. Almost everybody I know has either been affected by it, or knows somebody that has. And whilst its an epidemic for everyone, its much more serious among men.
Suicide is already a huge killer for men of all ages
In recent years, high profile celebrity suicides have brought this discussion to the forefront of society. The most recent example is Linkin Park's former front-man Chester Bennington. The most shocking thing about his tragic death is that it most likely could have been avoided. In an interview in February (5 months before his suicide) he said "when I'm in my own head … it is a bad neighbourhood, and I should not be in there alone".
Now looking back, its clear to see that this interview was a cry for help. Its not easy to admit that there's something wrong, and it takes a lot of bravery to ask for help, but even when someone as celebrated as Chester Bennington does it, its dismissed. I mean, the interviewer is laughing for crying out loud! A lot of fans dismissed these remarks, and its not uncommon for these subtle pleas for help to be ignored.
In the UK and ROI in 2015, there were 6639 reported suicides. Guess how many were men. 4997. That's 3 times the amount of female suicides. And that's only the reported number of suicides, its suggested that the true number could be much higher. How, and why, did it get this bad?
I'm sick of being told to 'man up'
In a world that's becoming more and more accepting, it astonishes me that the phrase "man up" is still in use. The idea that any display of weakness is somehow feminine is ridiculous, and the fact men are told to bottle up their emotions is the root of the problem.
In my experience, if a man displays any sort of affection he's "gay" or a "poof", and this degradation of men showing emotions leads to bottling up feelings to the point of explosion. That explosion for me came in Sixth Form, when I didn't feel like I could talk to anybody about what was going on inside my head, and I ended up having an acute mental breakdown in front of everyone. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by people who encouraged me to open up, and if I hadn't, it could have ended a lot worse.
I don't think any one of my male friends has ever been truly open about their state of mind, even when it was plainly obvious that something was bothering them. It's tweets like this from bigoted dinosaurs like Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins that encourage this silent taboo surrounding mental health.
Their denial of mental health issues as a serious problem unfortunately reaches millions of people, and some people just lap it up without questioning it.
These "celebrities" are the ones who are causing the problem surrounding the discussion, but others, like Stormzy, are openly encouraging it, talking about their own struggles with mental health issues and trying to get others to do the same.
Rising numbers of suicide at university
Coming of age is a very rough time for everyone, even without university. Your childhood is swept away from under your feet, and suddenly you're thrust into the adult world with a million things to worry and stress about that you're not prepared for.
Combine that with the stresses that come with uni life, and you get a serious problem that is not being addressed. When the Tab reached out for statistics of student suicides at university, only a handful of them actually had the numbers. The fact that a number of universities didn't feel obliged to investigate it just highlights the problem with the taboo around mental health. How on earth can we stop a problem if we refuse to acknowledge its existence in the first place?
It's time to step up
Boys, its time to play your part. Let's ditch this ridiculous notion of masculinity where nobody talks to each other about their feelings. If you notice your mate acting out of the ordinary, or a little bit more reclusive than usual, make sure you're there to talk to. If your Dad is stressed out from work, try to get him to talk to you about it, let him open up to you. If you know someone going through a rough breakup, or struggling with the stress of exams, be a shoulder to cry on, and a platform for them to build from.
And most importantly, if you're going through something, don't bottle it up, reach out. It could be a mate, partner, family, and there are loads of helplines and websites to help you get through it. Just know that you're never alone, there will always be someone there to help you.