It’s time to break the stigma around men’s mental health
We need to do better
The past 12 months have been a rough time for all of us. With no end to changes, limitations and alterations to normal everyday life, the mental health of our entire population has taken some kind of a hit.
In times like these, even as we move towards lessened restrictions and with freedom in sight, it is still so important to remember that feeling stressed, anxious, or down in any way is completely valid. A message which desperately needs to be emphasised when it comes to the male student population.
Men’s mental health awareness has been on the rise in recent years, with more and more campaigning to help spread the word that men experience poor mental health too. International Men’s Day takes place on 19th November every year, but remembering that guys are allowed to feel things too should be a 365-day event for every single one of us and here’s why.
In England, one out of eight men suffers with a common mental health problem such as anxiety, panic disorders, depression, or OCD, so why aren’t we talking about it more? Alongside the more common mental health problems, men can also experience issues sometimes more commonly associated with women – eating disorders, dealing with assault, body dysmorphia, grief and many others.
Mental health problems are not gender specific and they never have been. Just because you feel down it does not ever make you any less of a man. Being told to ‘man up’ is a phrase specifically designed to limit the emotional breadth of boys and men, convincing people that to feel is to be feminine with negative connotations. But this could not be more wrong.
Speaking to a second year Chemistry student at UoN about his experiences as a guy dealing with bouts of poor mental health, it was said that the main hurdles that need to be faced tend to be communication and reaction.
He told The Tab Nottingham, “I feel like it’s a carryover from the ‘boys don’t cry’ mentality that was taught to us. The choice to be vulnerable and open up can scare guys more than their mental illness, when it really shouldn’t”.
As young people, we have so much potential for change. Universities have always been places for protest and standing up for what is right – everyone has a duty to help de-stigmatise men’s mental health. We have to help our male population to know that what they feel is OKAY, reaching out for help is OKAY and that talking to mates about how you feel is OKAY.
Most important perhaps, is reminding guys that they are in no way on their own. The more we talk about how normal it is to experience periods of not feeling great, as well as normalising mental health conditions amongst men, the more comfortable we can hope people will feel in beginning to discuss their problems.
National services and university support are good places to look for help but we shouldn’t make anyone feel as though these are the only places to turn when you need a helping hand. Sometimes just listing a number of helplines gives the implication that you should go elsewhere if you want to talk about your feelings, almost giving the impression that conversations about mental health are not for everyday chats but designated to conversations with strangers.
Please don’t feel this way if you’re in need of support. Friends are there to talk to and you may not realise it but some of your mates could be feeling the same way that you are. You’ll never know until you take that first step in admitting that actually, you’re not as okay as you say you are.
Talking to friends and putting how you feel at the fore front of all that you do can make such a difference in how you process emotions in tough times. We all need to do our part in making our society a comfortable and accepting place to do so. Men feel things too. Reach out to a friend today and make a difference.
If you’re reading this, we hope you know how much support is out there for you. There is help available through the university in the form of Support and Wellbeing Officers as well as schemes like Nottingham Nightline, a service which provides support 7pm-8am everyday in the form of phone calls, Instant Messaging and voice-only skype calls.
Further to this, there are many other national support schemes ready to help you talk through anything you may be experiencing and offer advice if you need it:
Men’s Health Forum provides 24/7 support for men by text, chat and email. Their site is especially useful for help with specific issues that can and do affect men in Britain.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) provides a mental health helpline and webchat. You can call 0800 58 58 58 any day 5pm- midnight to receive support.
The NHS has a list of mental health charities and the support they provide in the above link. These range from more general helplines to ones tailored to specific issues such as Panic disorders, OCD and more.
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