Emma & Maddie's Blog
As young women, we have grown up alongside boys struggling in a society filled with unrealistic, harmful ideals of what it means to be a man.
Mental health issues in young people is a growing problem in our society, but why is the situation so much worse for men? Why is suicide the leading cause of death among young men in the UK? Something must be going terribly wrong for this to be the case. Something that contributes to the issue is a surprising number of people still holding on to the belief that when men express emotions or show distress it is a sign of weakness. The ability to express emotion and ask for help is one of the most important steps when combatting mental health issues, and that is why outdated notions of masculinity are having such a terrible impact on male mental health. As young women we have both been lucky enough to comfortably talk about our emotions without feeling judged. This is very empowering, and we know that being able to reach out and ask for help is actually very courageous and a sign of strength. Feeling able to do this is something we take for granted but imagining what life would be like without it, what it is like for men, is a troubling thought. We hope that in future this is something we will all feel comfortable to do- regardless of gender.
One of the reasons Boys in Mind is important for girls and women, is that it can guide us in how we can support the men in our lives. Whether that be fathers, brothers, boyfriends, friends or family members, often we have found it difficult to know the best way to help men who are struggling with their mental health. From our own experiences and those of other young women we know that it is hard to support men with their feelings because the men themselves sometimes feel they don’t deserve sympathy and they should ‘man up’. This is often down to the fact that they have grown up in an environment where to cry or to have self-pity are seen as signs of weakness. On the other hand, often men will go to one woman in their life and unload all their feelings on to them, and that can feel like a lot of pressure. Both of these things can put strain on relationships. While they can be there to listen and empathise, women shouldn’t feel solely responsible for solving a man’s mental health problems. If you are unsure on how to help someone with what they are going through, Boys in Mind is a great resource to recommend, as it not only has advice on the best places to find help, but personal stories that can remind people they are never alone in the way they feel.
In the long term, young people need to be educated in a way that rejects harmful stereotypes and promotes equality. Schools need to start teaching young boys and girls that men can create their own definition of what a man is. Here is what we think a man is. A man is empathetic and sympathetic. A man has valid feelings and emotions. A man should be able to cry when they want. A man should be able to ask for help. A man should not be taught that aggression and physical ability are the only signs of strength and manhood. A man should be able to talk about his emotions without society telling him not to and without being judged.
Emma and Maddie.