Life&Style writer Anna Griffiths importantly breaks the stigma surrounding male mental health
I’ve always been proud of my family’s stance on mental health. With parents who’ve placed an unwavering equal emphasis on both physical and mental state of health, I would like to think I come from a place where I would be fully open, kind and forward in my approach to male mental health. I wasn’t so proud of the fact that, when confronted with a male friend crying about a relationship gone sour right at the start of my second semester here at University, I felt fundamentally out of my comfort zone.
Our attitude as a society is one that needs to change. Statistics from 2015 show our clear failure to tackle the epidemic- young men are half as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety as women their age, but three quarters of all suicides in our age group are male. A clear discomfort with public emotion and speaking out when things are going wrong is forcing so many young men towards isolation and worsening mental health conditions.
Public figures speaking out on the issue isn’t a magic wand we can wave to make the issue disappear. However, it has been nothing short of refreshing to watch public role models start to take the topic seriously. That being said, hearing the likes of Piers Morgan telling those with mental health problems to ‘man up’ earlier in 2017 felt like yet another example of everything we’re doing wrong regarding male mental health. The reaction however? Now that’s something that offers a touch more hope. Watching Morgan being publicly blasted for his insensitivity offers wonderful signs that 2017 is the year we’ve stopped being blind to half the human race’s mental health issues.
From Professor Green’s grassroots BBC Three documentary talking about himself and his father’s battle with depression and suicide, to Prince Harry teaming up with experts to encourage men suffering to step forward. From actors such as Colton Haynes and Donald Glover striving to be candid about rough times in interviews, to Stormzy’s Mercury nominated album broaching the topic of his depression. To charities, such as CALM, being established to deal specifically with male mental health issues. To work being done on the assumption that, just because someone’s not speaking up, doesn’t mean something’s not wrong. We’re seeing diversity. We’re seeing positivity.
We’re seeing progress.
University is not always the easiest time and place to take care of yourself. Leaving the support network you’ve spent years developing to travel 3 hours to the Midlands to force yourself into a Broad Street Night Club every night for two weeks to avoid crippling ‘fomo’ takes its toll on most. University is a hard balance between feeling involved and the toll of constant time out. And for many, this often leaves us more vulnerable and struggling more than we ever have before. In all honestly, this shift that’s beginning to take place is not only welcome; it’s needed. For all our talk on campus over the past few years about taking care of ourselves, our mentors on the subject seem to have always fallen female. This shift that’s come from the top is one I’m hoping we see a lot more of on campus this year.
Here’s to 2017-18. To more outspoken men opening up about their struggles with mental health; both present and past. To men learning to accept their feelings and be more open with them, and to women. To women, like me, being patient and caring in the face of adversity in health to all.