On the 19th of March 2021, I resumed face to face training following the schools being allowed to re-open due to the gradual roadmap out of the 3rd lockdown as announced by our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. This particular training session was a Public Speaking “Speak Out Challenge” day for 14–15-year-old Year 10 students in a school in Portsmouth. I had 20 young people in the workshop, and we had a fantastic day engaging in different activities and learning helpful tips on how to be an engaging and confident speaker.
The session had a challenge at the end of the day, which was that every young person would prepare a speech on a topic or issue that was important to them and deliver it to their peers (those in the workshop) without any notes. One of those young people was Jake.
I have Jake’s permission and that of his teacher to mention his first name, but for safeguarding purposes I cannot mention his surname or school.
Jake got up and stood confidently in front of his peers and started to talk about an issue very close to his heart, and as he progressed through the speech his key message was communicated. Men are less likely to receive mental health support and more likely to commit suicide. He dropped it like a bomb! I had goose bumps on my skin as he expressed himself eloquently and passionately. He was also talking about something that meant a lot to me. The core of his message was that men have been raised to think that they have to be ‘strong’ and that they should not show emotion. When facing challenges, they need to ‘be a man’ or ‘man up’, and if they happen to express emotion they are told that they are being soft.
As I listened. I felt so many different emotions as he spoke. I felt sad, angry, and frustrated that the male members of our communities have to bear the burden of pretending and sucking it up. I also felt proud, happy, and impressed with this young man and his courage to speak up about such a sensitive matter. Men are human beings, not androids! They are not emotionless machines. The highest rate of suicide is found in males and in the 45-49 years age group. This has to change! Sadly, men themselves perpetuate these messages and lay it on each other. What I find interesting though, and it is something that struck me when Jake was speaking is that the first 3 letters in the phrase Mental Health are MEN. Something to think about.
I personally love a man who can cry and be open with his emotions. There is a wonderful honesty in being this way, and it enhances trust. Withholding emotions and pretending not to have them does not make anybody, whatever their gender, strong. In my opinion, it makes them weak, and a potential victim.
We now live in a world where we are no longer ignorant of mental health issues and the impact it has on all of us. We all have mental health, and anyone can become ill at anytime but there are ways to build emotional resilience and manage our mental health. Talking and showing emotion are 2 of them. If you are familiar with my T.E.A acronym you will know that ‘T’ stands for ‘Talk About It’ and ‘E’ stands for ‘Express Emotion’. How can anyone do ‘A’ which is ‘Accept help & Support’ if they are not comfortable with disclosing?
So please, let’s stop telling our children and young people that “Boys Don’t Cry”