This wonderful and hard-hitting new advert from Childline – the UK charity for children going through difficulties, is once again tackling teenage suicide. This advert will resonate with any adult man or teenage boy struggling with mental illness and the daily anxieties, anger, frustration and emotional rollercoaster. Please watch it.
Now I want to pose you the question in the blog headline: what would it take for you to see a man as vulnerable? Often, male mental illness starts in childhood. Some may be brought on by puberty but some start even earlier than that. We expect men to be able to cope as though there is some magical event at the end of puberty that means he is now a man, no longer a child, and either has no difficulties, just privilege, and should be able to cope with whatever life throws at him.
What would it take for you to see a man as vulnerable?
Would it be seeing a woman in the street hitting him, or would you simply laugh and walk on by? Would you assume he was asking for it or probably did something to deserve it? What would it take for you to intervene, would he have to be in a wheelchair?
Is it seeing a man crying in public, or would you simply laugh and walk on by?
Would it be seeing a man expressing his anger in public (a common symptom of depression in men), or would you simply assume he has anger management issues and walk on by?
Would it be seeing a man perched on a high building or bridge, getting ready to jump or would you simply tell him to “man up” and “grow a set” and simply walk on by?
What would it take for you to see how these expectations placed on men are the problem? What would it take for you to break out of the mindset that “patriarchy” means men can never be vulnerable, never be victims and always the perpetrator? What would it take to challenge your narrow definition of masculinity and stop demanding men act a certain way, something that may actually be damaging to his mental health, in order to boost your own ego?
What will it take for you to see male depression and male suicide as a problem and not a failing on the part of the individual and unrelated to social expectations?