Mental Health Awareness Day 2019
Updated: Mar 7
Today is Mental Health Awareness Day. First celebrated in 1992, the aim of the day is to put a spotlight on the wide variety of mental health issues affecting us today and to educate people, as well as eliminating the social stigmas that exist. The "theme" of the day this year is focusing on Mental Health Promotion, and Suicide Prevention.
Suicide is the single biggest killer in men under 45 in the UK, and quite frankly that statistic is very upsetting to me. The fact that so many people reach a point where they do not consider their lives worth living is deeply troubling, and it's obviously a big problem that we need to work on as a society. "Toxic masculinity" is a term that I feel is unfortunately one of the major contributors to this horrible statistic, and I think because it is often so ingrained into our culture, it is overlooked. As a male, my own personal experiences in struggling with mental health has come, I think, mostly due to toxic masculinity and an inability to express myself emotionally. It has long been ingrained in our society and culture that "boys don't cry", and that we need to "man up" or put on a brave face when we are upset instead of talking about our problems or proactively seeking to resolve them. These pressures on men not to look weak result in emotions being bottled up that can lead to an overwhelming sense of loneliness, with the feeling that no-one else understands you. And this can then lead onto various mental health issues, such as depression. I myself have definitely felt the effects of the "toxic masculinity" present in our culture, and although it is definitely improving, we still have a way to go in creating an environment where everyone can feel able to express themselves freely without being judged or ostracised.
In recent years I have tried as hard as I can to push through the cultural judgement and stigma associated with masculinity and emotions, and I have to say I feel a lot better for it. If you have something you want to say to someone, say it. If you have emotional issues brewing that you want to vent to someone about, do it. I do believe that a problem shared is a problem halved - you'll feel like a weight has been lifted. And it's important to be there for your friends and peers too. A shoulder to cry on, a friendly text to check in on someone, or just a listening ear can be more useful than you know. It is estimated that over 300 million worldwide people suffer with depression, and depression is one of the major mental health issues contributing to suicides. It's time that we treat mental health as seriously as we treat physical health - our minds are complex and amazing things that require as much, if not more, care than our physical bodies.
I'm absolutely no expert in mental health, but it is a cause that I believe in and definitely feel needs to be more openly discussed in society. Below are a number of interesting websites, articles and videos for you to look into as your homework on this topic!
It's Character Building - Suicide Prevention - Very personal and more in-depth blog entry from a fellow blogger on the subject of suicide and suicide prevention. Absolutely worth a read.
The World Federation For Mental Health - Website for the organisation behind Mental Health Awareness day. You can find out more about what they do, donate and learn more about what you can do to make a change for good.
Mind - Website for the UK mental health charity. Again there is great info her on what they do, and what you can do to get involved.
Toxic Masculinity In Boys Is Fuelling An Epidemic of Loneliness - NBC News - A fairly short, but informative piece on the aforementioned toxic masculinity affecting men in society. US-based piece but absolutely as relevant here too. Note the number of dislikes and negative comments on this video... the toxic masculinity culture is very evident in the response to it.