Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. In the UK alone, 75% of suicides are male.*
On International Men’s Day, we’re sharing these personal stories from three of our male volunteers about why they volunteer for Shout 85258 and want to help other men know it’s ok to open up. Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to face it alone.
“There are so many statements facing men about how we should behave. So many of these are based on culture, generational messages and I am sure a stereotype for the role of men.
- ‘Men don't do emotions’
- ‘Men don’t cry’
- ‘Opening up is a weakness’
- ‘Leave him be, he'll get over it’
- ‘Man up’
It has been normalised in so many places that men are expected to be strong, bold and stoic. I can hear people saying, “but that is not the case”. However, if we believe it then it is true for us.
It reaches the point that men can be embarrassed or even fearful that if we don't ‘man up’ we appear to show weakness. I spent so much time toughening up in school, in work and in sport and just being strong to maintain my self-esteem, which takes huge energy.
Sharing how you feel is a huge sign of strength and takes courage and bravery. It creates fantastic relief when you finally realise that there are people to listen and understand how you feel.”
It creates fantastic relief when you finally realise that there are people to listen and understand how you feel
“I have always struggled with the stigma that is placed on mental health especially within the male gender.
In my day job I work with young adults with both learning disabilities and mental health needs. The stigma, not only from others, but that they place on themselves is so overwhelming, believing that, because they have mental health needs that they are unable to do something, which is never the case.
I started volunteering for Shout 85258 in February 2020, just as we were about to go into a pandemic. One of the main reasons I joined this charity was to learn more about mental health but also to be a voice for the thousands of males throughout England who either go undiagnosed or unsupported with their health.
The stigma that goes with males in general is that they have to be strong, emotionless or that any emotion shown should not make them come across as weak; that it’s not ‘manly’ to need support from others. In fact, by addressing those struggles, it not only allows them to get the support they need but in turn allows them to be stronger mentally and physically.
An old teacher once told me that if you broke your arm you would go to see the doctor, so if you were struggling mentally why would you not do the same? There should be no difference between physical and mental health.
What I love about Shout is that the volunteers are all from different walks of life, different backgrounds, sexuality and genders but ultimately there is no judgement. Men should feel comfortable to reach out because there is always someone here to listen.”
If you broke your arm you would go to see the doctor, so if you were struggling mentally why would you not do the same?
“For a few years, I’ve seen the effects that mental health problems can have on those closest to me and in the workplace. There seems to be a stigma around men not being able to share their problems because it’s not ‘manly’ and that they are supposed to be the ‘strong one’.
I’ve struggled with opening up about my issues in the past. I’ve got very good at pushing my feelings so far down, it takes ages to resurface, but when it does it’s like a volcanic eruption. This isn’t healthy and I realised the importance of being able to share my feelings openly without fear of recourse. Talking can really lighten the load, even if you can’t talk about your pain all in one go.
It’s sad to see that a lot of males can’t seem to find the inner strength to open up until it’s too late, with suicide or self-harm being the only viable option to them. This is where Shout can really help.
During Christmas of last year, I watched a documentary with (Dame!) Mary Berry with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which is where I first discovered Shout and the fantastic work that they do. I had been looking at volunteering for other mental health charities but Shout really interested me. The idea that you can have a live text chat with a real volunteer was really strong. Being able to physically talk to someone over the phone can be such a real hurdle but being able to text seems to make it a little easier for someone to make that first courageous step in helping themselves feel better.
I’ve been on the platform for just over 6 months now, and I can truly say it’s one of the most rewarding things I have done. Seeing first-hand the troubles and pain people are going through and being there to empower and support them through their difficulties is just fantastic. I would urge any men out there who are suffering, in pain or just scared, to text in and someone will be there to help and give you the support you so thoroughly deserve.
Being able to text seems to make it a little easier for someone to make that first courageous step in helping themselves feel better
We want to redefine what it means to be the Strong, Silent, Type. Watch our video below for more: