‘The Trouble With Men’
The trouble with men is society. The trouble with men is stigma. The trouble with men is the past. The trouble with men is…
The trouble with men was the title of a ‘Tonight’ ITV special looking at depression in men and the fear of opening up about how we feel. It centred around former England rugby player Duncan Bell who admitted to suffering from and hiding his depression until one day the team doctor took him to one side and asked him how he was feeling. Having responded with the all too common phrase “I’m fine” the doctor replied “no no really how are you feeling” and Bell admitted to basically breaking down into tears.
So this post aims to explore what it is about men that stop us from talking about depression or admitting we suffer from it. Right there I touch upon something which is perhaps slightly inaccurate. I put it to you that it is not some sort of pre disposition, chromosomal, hormonal or other biological thing that stops us talking, but it is (partly) a societal reason.
It can be argued that gender stereotypes still exist in the modern age, as is evidenced by the ongoing feminist movement, but it’s not just women who are the butt of sexist stereotypes. Men are affected by them too. There is a myth that men are the protectors, the strong guys and the stable people with strong upper lips. We’re meant to get into fights and throw punches. We’re meant to show all the attributes of a warrior. Unfortunately it is this that is part of the reason men are either afraid to talk about their depression or reluctant to do so. I was told to “man up” at age 15 when I first opened up about how I felt, and that was from a guy who was supposed to be my friend. Things like that, silly ancient perceptions of what a man is stop us from opening up and getting that all important help. There’s the idea of a golden hour when doctors try to save people’s lives, well there’s something similar with mental health. If we notice the symptoms early enough then we can help save people from themselves, and help people to save themselves much more easily before depression manifests itself and blinds them to the reality of life. That is why it is crucial to stop this petty culture of sexism that pervades society today. This brings me onto my next point.
Society. I feel that people with mental health issues are perhaps more aware of people who may judge them, and we use our heightened sense of fear to suggest that there is a culture of turning a blind eye when it comes to mental health. I believe we exaggerate the amount of people whom are all to willing to judge us, to look down on us and to ignore us because we are different. I am in no way suggesting this is the case for all, neither am I suggesting it does not exist, because plainly it does! We must be wary not to let our fear blind us though. However, within society exists a culture of ignorance, and this is where stigma stems from. A lack of understanding of issues, of being afraid of change and people who are different to us. Society allows the continued growth of the idea that men should not talk about their feelings because feeling this way is simply not manly. This is so wrong, so very very wrong, and if you come across this feeling guys then swat it down like you would a fly. Crush it like you would a can. We need to find a way to remove this belief, this myth from society, and the best way to do it is to talk.
The trouble with men is that when you combine depression in men with societal attitudes, you get men hiding away and continuing to allow the myth that depression is a weakness and unmanly to pervade our culture. Now that’s not the fault of the people with depression, but if we can break out of this bubble, to talk out and explain how we feel, then slowly but surely the bubble that society holds itself within will pop and people will throw off their false conciousness’ to find the truth that depression can strike anyone, it strikes in different ways, and that men who suffer from it are no less than men who don’t.
The trouble with men is that because of this myth that depression in men is a sign of weakness and not macho many simply suffer alone in silence increasing the pain they hide inside as the world continues to turn, but their world inside crumbles and crashes, beginning to burn. Men are more reluctant to see their GP, to talk to their friends about it, and all because of this idea that it is not manly.
The only way to solve this idea that emotions, depression etc are signs of weakness and not macho is to educate people, to remove ignorance, remove prejudice and stupidity, and to encourage strong independent thinking. Shun societies supposed rules, talk about how you feel if you need to, it’s ok to do so. Education will of course only be 1 egg in the basket, but it will be a bloody big egg at that.
The trouble with men is that we are scared. The trouble with men is that society has indoctrinated us to see vast differences between us and women, when in reality the only differences that matter are biological. Large amounts of what has been discussed here can be applied to women as well, it’s just men are even more afraid to speak out. Men and women, we’re not that different. Lose your chains and fight for your freedom.