Toxic Masculinity – description of manhood defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away. (1)
At the end of 2017, Jordan ‘Rizzle Kicks’ Stephens, wrote a Guardian Opinion article on “Toxic Masculinity” and it really caught my attention that a young man wrote openly about his mental health struggles and the issues men face on a wider scale. I was taken aback at just how many people, men in particular, struggle every single day with their mental health, spiralling into different forms of mental illnesses and reactions because of the effects of ‘toxic masculinity’. He ended on the note that, for men, the familiar method of outpouring mental issues is a danger to others – with violence or to themselves – in the form of suicide. We live in a society where men feel safer killing themselves rather than acknowledging and understanding their pain. Take that in.
In the one month that I was away from #TTM I came across around 5 male suicides, 1 female suicide and 3 suicide attempts across the news and social media. People are hurting and struggling with various battles. They need support, from friends and loved ones. I urge you to check in on people, just in general. A simple text or call could change their whole day and mind for the better being reassured that they are being thought about.
Due to the worrying high rate of male suicide, the government, large corporations and charities are working hard to tackle areas of mental illness and male suicide. With the progressiveness of being open about mental health and illnesses it has and will continue to allow an increasing number of men to step forward to talk about their experience, life and health for a more positive outcomes.
It’s heart-warming to see commercial campaigns from companies such as Ford who teamed up with Time To Change in a recent mental health awareness advert. The advert highlighted the realty that men do struggle with opening up about their emotions, not knowing who to talk to and if they do want to talk, how. Time To Change found that ‘only a third of men (34 per cent) would talk openly about their feelings, while just under one third (31 per cent) of men said that they would be embarrassed about seeking help for a mental health problem.’This just highlights the issues men face internally based on their external social conditioning. What we can do is change the way we speak to each other, know and understand how our friends and family are doing. Check up on them. It doesn’t even have to be about their ‘mental health’ but acknowledging that you’ve thought of them is a major start. We then need to continue having discussions about our mental health. The same way we have physical health is the same way we have mental health. You won’t think twice telling someone you have a headache and need paracetamol, so why stop short telling someone you don’t feel like yourself and want to find out why?
I really loved the way Jordan ended his Opinion piece by simply stating that it is OK to feel any and every emotion that passes through you. Because you’re human and you’re allowed to. We need to continue creating spaces for men and women but also children, so that they don’t grow up in a world that demonises their emotions, so we can allow them to be free and expressive for a healthier life.
The topic of toxic masculinity is heavily layered and something that will be touched on again. Do comment below and let me know your thoughts around this area and what we can do to help people, allowing men to be open about their emotions.