Most boys grow up in an environment that doesn’t express emotions, not because they they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how to. When with family, personal matters are not discussed. When with friends, boys communicate through banter. That’s it.
With the lads, we play Fifa, we participate in sport, and we update each other on our romantic interests. Everything is a competition and this is our script that we need to follow. Anything outside of that script does not belong. If one of the lads tries to dress different from the rest, he is slagged off. When one of the lads says he is giving up alcohol, we throws our eyes to heaven, and when one of the lads wants to talk about his emotions, we simply ignore it, again not because we choose to, but because we don’t know how to. But what about when one of the lads knows he’s gay but can’t tell the group? What about when one of the lads hasn’t slept or eaten in days because he’s worried about his exams? Or what if one of the lads finds out that he has terminal cancer? What then? That’s not part of the script.
Suicide is the biggest killer of males under 50. Suicide is also something that is completely avoidable. We are told that we are a product of our choices, but the problem is that young boys are not taught to understand their choices. They grow up believing that they have to follow the script or be excluded, and this leads them down a dark path of unrealistic expectations of masculinity, loneliness, and repression. Society does not allow boys to have whole friendships. The lads will laugh with you, they’ll physically protect you, but when it comes to offering a shoulder to cry on, it’s not accepted, not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how to.
Now this is not to say that women are not suffering just as much as men. It’s just a different form. The naturalness of a woman asking another woman how they are feeling is much more straightforward than for men. It’s in their script. The problem with men and mental health is that society has unfortunately engrained the idea that is not normal for men to talk about their emotions.
Evidence of a Flawed System
9 year old Jamel Myles came out as gay and he was bullied so badly, he resorted to suicide. Ronan Hughes unknowingly sent naked pictures to scam artists, who then threatened to blackmail him. He took his own life as a result. And finally, an 11 year old in Singapore couldn’t deal with the stress of his exam results so he took his own life by jumping out of a window. We can no longer fathom the pressures that young boys are under. They live in a society where pressure is mounting but outlets are limited. Young boys can access guns and drugs easier than psychological assistance. The world is not yet broken but right now, it doesn’t make any sense.
So what can we do?
We can make young boys aware of their choices by making them aware of what to do when something doesn’t follow the script. We teach them not only that opening up is important, but also how to open up. Suicide is not just a statistic because it ruins the lives of those around the bereaved. The knock on effect can spread like wildfire. Fortunately, it can be prevented. Male suicide has dropped in recent years, and this is because of the fantastic work that mental health organisations have achieved. Campaigns such as ‘It’s ok not to be ok’, CALM and ‘Alright mate’ are changing the way men understand their mental health. But we can’t stop now. The mission is only beginning and we cannot fall under the habit of telling young boys that they should open up without explaining how to. We at Motus are now taking on the next step of teaching young boys how to express themselves and normalising emotional expression from childhood. We want to highlight that fundraising for Movember will give money to mental health awareness. Please donate if you want to help the male mental health epidemic. And if not, then simply ask your brother, your father, your son, your friend, how are you? It opens doors you can’t even imagine.
The Motus Movement.