What Makes a Man?
As the mum to a teenage boy, I often wonder about the different stereotypes of masculinity we see every day. So many expectations, idealised images of what manhood should look like. No wonder it’s confusing if you feel like you don’t quite measure up.
My own personal bugbear is with the idea of the ‘strong and silent type’. The idea that men who don’t talk about their feelings are somehow stronger than those who do. It’s idiotic when you think about it. Especially when you consider the horrifying statistic that suicide is one of the highest causes of death in young men aged under 35 years old.
So is strong and silent really that good a thing? Is this what our sons, brothers, fathers and friends should believe? No, it’s not.
When Alex first started talking about setting up this site, one of the greatest fears for both of us, was how some people would respond? On his private blog we’d already experienced what some people’s reactions could be. The phrase ‘he should grow a pair’ was touted by a rather ignorant anonymous individual. Worryingly, this is a common attitude.
Be a Man
It’s so frustrating to hear comments like that touted around. ‘Be a man’, ‘Grow a pair’, ‘boys don’t cry’. Yet we hear these phrases so often that we don’t really think about it. Someone close to me recently lost an old school friend to suicide. This man had been battling depression and had a testing time through divorce and injury. The saddest part was so many of the tributes to him were along the lines of “I never knew he was suffering”, “he hadn’t said anything”, “he seemed so strong”. So he was strong and silent and ended up taking his own life? That’s terrible.
Silence is a Killer
When you cannot release the negative thoughts that depression can heap upon you it can quickly escalate out of control. One of the most effective ways to combat this is always going to be to talk. If you cannot fight the demon in your head alone, it helps to have someone who will counterbalance the venom that depression spouts to you.
What we want to encourage is that it’s OK to talk about how you’re feeling. Depression can so often be an incredible deceiver, convincing you that you’re worthless and the world is a better place without you.
For any man, young or old who reads this, I want you to listen to what I say next.
Being silent is not a reflection of your strength. Not asking for help with your mental health does not make you more of a man. It’s good to talk about your feelings.
For any man who doubts this I recommend you read Jeremy’s interview. He lives with depression, it doesn’t define him and he maintains a happy, growing family. His story is an inspiration and one I often read myself.
One thing I’ll leave you with is what I say to my son when I know he’s down. “It doesn’t matter who you talk to, I don’t mind if it’s not me. But talk. Get it out of your head. You’ll feel lighter for doing so.”
Take care guys.
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