Men's Mental Health

Equality. We talk about it, push for it, even fight for it in different fronts in all aspects of life. We come from a country where we were the first to give women the right to vote, challenging the status quo. The misconception that a man’s brain is in anyway physically different to a woman has been totally debunked. It’s all part of our journey to equality, and that was one of the fundamentals. That’s all well and good for the fight towards equality; it supports the notion that intellect between a man and a woman is equal. The scales are balanced. But, is that all a brain is for? 

There’s a common misconception that the root of emotions is in the heart. I disagree; its essence for me is in the mind. So, where is the conversation for a fight towards emotional equality?  

Heteronormative patriarchal subtext in some twisted way tells us that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, and that there is an expectation to act a certain way, think a certain way, and carry ourselves a certain way. It convinces us that this is what it means to “be a man”. Diverging from this “code” somehow equates to us being less of a man. Being scared of failure, embracing the softer sides of our personalities (what many would call femininity), dressing in a particular way, taking interest in things which we are told aren’t “manly hobbies”. This is just scratching the surface of issues which damage the mental health of men in our community. But then again, this is just my perspective on the matter. Everyone has their own demons, but what connects us is the capacity to heal.  

We don’t all heal by talking, but some of us do. We don’t all heal through expressing ourselves through a medium like art or sport, but some of us do. We don’t all heal by clearing our minds by immersing ourselves in some way, but some of us do. But what we do need is the ability to talk about it. For those of us who don’t want to talk, and for those of us who just want to listen, and finally for the rest of us, too. 

@trashing_toxic_masculinity is my way of starting this conversation, using Instagram as the medium. The purpose of this initiative is to target toxic masculinity, grabbing the bull by the horns and confronting many of the stereotypes and preconceived notions that men face, and are expected to conform to. We know these concepts are hurting the mental health of the men in our lives, and we aim to weed these out. Let’s get the conversation going because mental health matters. This initiative will be a series of post/profiles on individuals sharing their stories and journeys. These will be connected by the hashtag #realmendocry to form a network and conversation. The target is that these posts will encourage others to follow suit and do the same, sharing their own story with the hashtag. Let’s get the conversation going because mental health matters.  

If you are thinking, why do I care so much about this? Anyone who knows me knows I am not conventionally the most typical “jock macho man”. As a result, I have felt first-hand these insecurities and stresses on my mental health, and have had to learn to accept myself and work on my own mental health. I want to know sure no one else feels alone on their own journey with their mental health. Furthermore, I am a Civil Engineering student at UC. Our cohort is predominantly male, mirroring our industry, and these men are the ones who will be entering the workforce. I hope the work we are trying to do helps with the mental health of those who will be the future face of this industry. Caring for the mental health of those around you is not simply something nice to do, it is everyone’s responsibility and this my small part. Lockdown gave me a lot of time to reflect on the little things and the big things, and what impact I could have in doing some productive and useful with my time at home. This campaign is my attempt at that.  

I thought I would share some tips as to how to reach out to the men in our lives, be it your brother, partner, father or mates. It seems rather counterintuitive to what we have drilled into us by society, but validation is a key tool. Donald Pettitt, CEO of the Canterbury Men’s Centre, believes that the men in our lives want to know they are loved, appreciated, and their sentiments and emotions are valid. Not all men will want to talk their feelings out, but everyone wants to feel valued. Expressing that can be a powerful tool. Another point Donald made was that in our fight towards combatting toxic masculinity, we should not go so far as to shame all masculinity. Masculinity is beautiful, and the appreciation of this aspect of the men in our lives is critical to support their mental health. The key is to target those traits which make masculinity a niche specific typic of mannerisms and behavioural traits, and make men who don’t fit into those feel lesser.  

The Canterbury Men’s Centre is a strong supporter of the initiative and are a safe space that men can contact for support, with a great team always ready to help.

If you have something to say, or want to just listen (well read), follow our journey, and use the hashtag #realmendocry if you do have something to say, as a conversation is one that is connected. 

By Rohan Chakrabarti