After a celebrity or someone within your local community takes their life due to mental health issues, you tend to see the same posts on social media: “If anyone wants to talk I’m here”, “It’s okay not to be okay”, “speak to someone”, and so on.
I always find these difficult to read, because they simplify an increasingly complicated issue in an unhealthy way.
Men, in particular, have always found mental health issues hard to deal with, and I believe it’s becoming even more difficult in our current culture.
At our very core, humans are animals. Everyday we battle with complicated emotions; fighting our animalistic tendencies to benefit those around us.
I, for example, have anger issues. Every day I’ll encounter at least one issue where I want to smash something or punch someone, but because I’m able to control myself I don’t. In fact, I quit drinking alcohol last year to help me retain control when in situations where my anger peaks.
Those who know me are very aware of my issue, but even they only see a filtered version of what goes through my mind. If I had no filter, I’d definitely be in prison by this point.
I’m not a bad person, and if you were to meet me within a working environment would probably think I’m a very passive individual; however in the inside I’m furious with the world around me.
Have I ever spoken to anyone about the extent of my anger issues? No. Never my family, nor friends, nor my girlfriend.
So, why don’t I, if it could benefit my own wellbeing? Because my thoughts simply aren’t acceptable within society.
Like I said earlier, what happens within my head is a conflict, and I imagine many men with mental health issues feel exactly the same way.
My thoughts are often terrifying, disgustingly animalistic, and so out of character I would never reveal it to anyone.
Of course this has been true of humans for generations, so what’s changed? Social media.
Whilst social media has helped promote women communicating their emotions and thoughts, in many ways it’s forced men suppress theirs.
Men are increasingly told they shouldn’t have a voice on certain topics, or are told what they can or can’t do. When they speak up, they’re silenced or publicly shunned.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the recent progress with feminism is necessary, and it is important that men are held more accountable for their actions. Men are being forced (for the better) to control their impulses, but are also being encouraged to not speak on them at all.
Men have always been told that speaking about their emotions is a sign of weakness, and social media has only further strengthened this outdated concept.
So, how are men meant to talk about their mental health issues if they can’t talk about the issues that are upsetting them? Well, they can’t.
If we want people to fight their impulsive thoughts it’s important that we understand these thoughts actually exist.
There’s a big difference between acting on an action and simply thinking about it, however we often treat people who voice their thoughts as if these thoughts are actions.
Take Liam Neeson’s recent controversy; after a friend of his was raped he said he wanted to patrol the streets and kill anyone that matched the rapist’s description (the rapist was black). Despite him openly saying how he didn’t act on his impulse and how he knew it was an irrational thought, the public treated him as if he had committed the crime.
It’s situations like these that reinforce the idea that thoughts are almost equal to action, and that if we say our thoughts others may react like we actually did them.
This is why when I see people do these generic posts on social media, offering their ear to anyone currently suffering with mental health issues, they make me cringe. Not only are you being ignorant by assuming that people suffering would open up to a complete stranger, but the people making these posts are the same people who attack those with differing opinions to them.
In order to help these men, we need to find a way of helping them feel secure in sharing their thoughts, and not feel as if they’ll be judged on actions they never took.