International Men’s Day on Monday 19th November aims to celebrate the contributions men make to their families and communities, promote positive male role models and raise awareness of men’s wellbeing.
In the UK, International Men’s Day promotes diversity and gender equality while focusing on some of the challenges facing men and boys, ranging from education and health to sexual and domestic violence. Events, charities, celebrations and ways to get involved are suggested on the website: http://ukmensday.org.uk/.
All of these issues can affect mental health and heading the list of issues each year is the tragic suicide rate among men and boys. Around 75% of deaths by suicide are of males.
Although there are many individual reasons for suicidal feelings, sadly men and boys are less likely to ask for support, seek counselling or talk about emotional distress. Reasons for this, highlighted by a Samaritans report, include a traditional view of masculinity that looks to men to be “strong and silent” rather than talk about feelings.
These issues are important to me personally because, some years ago, I lost my brother to suicide. After he killed himself, at only 21 years old, my mother in law, a teacher, lit candles in form time and told her sixth form class about his death.
She asked her students to think of the boys in their class, their friends and family and in the school and to let one another know that they were there to listen, if anyone had a need to talk. She explained that it was good to share and listen to each other’s feelings and support one another and that in our society men and boys often feel that they have to be “strong” by bottling it up and that this can lead to unnecessary and sometimes tragic suffering. This small act to help boys to express their feelings gave me hope that similar suffering could be prevented as awareness spread.
Campaigns to raise awareness and to encourage boys and men to seek support have thankfully made a difference: the suicide rate among men has gone down to its lowest in 30 years. On the Movember website (https://uk.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health) men talk about how talking itself has helped transform their lives and how to be vulnerable and open is an act of courage.
Our Mindfulness service is great for men who want to manage their mental health and the Old Fire Station runs a Men's Social Group, which is a brilliant place for men to access support.
Click the links to find out more.