Time to talk about the opposite sex, and to make a confession.
I grew up ignorant to the extent of mental health problems that men face. I grew up with “strong” men around me who went to work 6 or 7 days a week, never complained and if I am honest, hardly spoke of their feelings. If they were sad, I wouldn’t know it. They would withdraw and the little communication that was visible, would not be so visible anymore. It deeply saddens me to know that for so many men, this is the only option they feel is viable.
What saddens me further is that this response seems ingrained in them. That over time it seems to have been constructed from the pressure to generate and deliver the most money to the household, at any personal cost. At any amount of physical sacrifice, and at any mental sacrifice.
This I now know, because I have watched my husband battle with the societal expectation of what a man of the house, and a father, is expected to contribute to a family. To the detriment of his mental wellbeing. Desperately wanting to be present for our children and being limited to, if lucky, a 10-minute timeframe per day to spend with them. Sacrificing time to be the main breadwinner of our house so that I need not work full time and can be there for our boys. Then at least one of us can watch them grow up.
Eventually it has taken its toll.
Work. And work harder. Be tougher. Don’t complain. Have a drink if you feel shit about something. If you still feel shit, have another. It is a cycle that I can say I have watched through many generations of men around me.
As a “mum blogger”, as a wife, a mother of boys, and as a woman who is surrounded by amazing men that stay quiet when there is so much to be said (yet maybe they just don’t know how to), I feel that voicing depression and anxiety in men is just as important as voicing women’s. Because my family and friends are a team. And when one player is on the bench, we don’t simply delist them without a second thought. We guide them on the path to recovery. We want to face the next game with our strongest side.
The rate of male suicide shocks me. The statistic really is jaw-dropping.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2017 about 75% of people who died by suicide were males. In a perfect world there would be 0% for both sexes, of course. But this information is telling us something.
As hard as parents try to educate their sons about the range of emotions and developing tools in their tool box to cope with them, maybe it just takes time and perseverance of this to undo what evolution has itself done. Maybe it takes society speaking more of the challenges that men face. That fathers face. Where they are to accept that for many years their gender was required to work while women raised their children and if they felt the urge to be with them then they need to stow it away. Just suck it up because nothing will change.
After writing blogs about mental health, particularly post-natal depression and anxiety, and seeing how many women can voice their issues (not all women, we each have our own cross to bear) I exist online in a space where men’s mental health is not discussed as much.
I simply wanted to give some air time to acknowledge the men in my life that are feeling deflated, feeling lonely, or that something is missing in their life but they can’t quite pinpoint it, feeling as though they aren’t enough for their family or feeling guilty for the lack of time they may spend with their babies and other halves. Feeling full of emotion and feeling it is unacceptable for them to express it.
By showing there are some guys out there able to get in touch with emotions, becoming aware of how to process them and how to use words in order to manage and express them, you are showing future generations of boys that they can do it too.
While times are slowly changing with a broader range of diversity in household roles, from where I sit men are still pigeonholed as less sensitive and that they can “deal” with working away from family. Men are still generalised as being tougher emotionally because the culture of acceptance is still shifting.
I can only hope that with continual education of this in our schools and through openness with family and friends, that our children will be raised in a different world. I hope that as a result the rate of stress, anxiety and depression in men reduces dramatically.
***Special mention to my husband who has been so brave and allowed me to write about his experiences. Love you babe.
Here is where you can get some more info and support: