Men’s Mental Health Week 2020
This week is men’s mental health week so we decided to ask different men from the batyr team why it’s important to talks about his mental health and how they define masculinity. They came back with some incredible answers.
“For many years, I struggled to communicate my thoughts and feelings with others. I hesitated because I felt I would be a burden and bring others down. Instead, I chose self-destructive activities to cope. It’s when I began to talk to my friends that I realised that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, which was really empowering to me. For the first time, I could see a path in a dark forest. For the first time, I could see hope. For the first time, I was speaking above water. I began to sort through the fuzz of my brain and take positive action. For me, positive masculinity means owning up and accepting who you truly are, not what society expects you to be. Accepting the things you can’t change, working hard to change the things you can and encouraging your mates to do the same. This isn’t what makes me a man this is what makes me human.”
“The truth is, I never used to understand the state of my own mental health – much less talk about it.
I’ve always been more than willing to make myself available to others as someone to listen, advise, or just be a shoulder to cry on, but I would never share that same vulnerability. I think it was tied to my idea about what being a good person was someone who was strong for everyone else but able to be completely self-reliant. These notions were heavily influenced by socially constructed ideals around masculinity. I suppressed my feelings, never allowing them to form into something communicable so I wouldn’t need anything from anyone.
Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be a pretty toxic behavioural cycle for me but what’s perhaps less intuitive is the negative impact this had on the people around me. Whereas I, without serious consideration, felt that these displays of ‘strength’ and self-reliance would make me dependable, they were actually cutting me off from the people I loved. I wasn’t able to cultivate the richness and depth of relationships I so craved because I wasn’t really allowing myself to be truly in them. My ideas around masculinity though well-intentioned were harmful to myself and others. It’s taken several years of self-reflection, commitment to therapy and vulnerability in my most important relationships to begin to understand and unravel the impact of traditional masculinity on me and the people around me.
I believe we need to work towards a much more dynamic and inclusive idea of masculinity. A masculinity that recognises and celebrates all expression, shapes, and sizes of men. Masculinity that encourages boys and men to explore and understand their feelings so as to express them in a healthy way. A masculinity that is strong in its condemnation of discrimination and bullying. Masculinity that no longer champions physical strength and aggressiveness that leads to violence. A masculinity that seeks to undo the wrongs of the past and allows us to work towards a more equitable society because what we have now, isn’t working for anyone.”
I struggled for a long time to understand that talking about what’s happening inside was in fact the best way to manage my mental health.
What does masculinity mean to me?… I was stuck in this for some time. I feel I see it in two different ways. Outwards, it means I’ve fallen into the social norm of being a tall, bearded man but inwards, it means strength. Not physical strength, but the strength to speak up about how I feel, about talking through what needs to be done and providing the best why I can for my friends and family.
Thanks so much Andy, Shane, and Mitch for being so open, honest, and vulnerable.