Big boys do cry

I come from a generation where as a child I was told ‘Big Boys don’t cry’, and my parents before them from a generation brought up on the notions about having a stiff upper lip, that showing emotion was either bad or something intrinsically not English!

I suspect that like many other boys of my generation we never challenged this, in fact were discouraged from believing that there was any other way of acting, so brought into this idea that no matter what emotional traumas life threw at us, we just had to keep soldiering on, not letting these emotions out into the open.

In return, for not sharing how much we might be hurting inside, and inconveniently asking for help, we were complimented on how well we were dealing with whatever crises we were facing, whilst inside us these emotions were perhaps tearing us apart, as I often suggest leading many men to live lives of quiet desperation.

Perhaps it is no surprise then as the charity Men’s Health Forum has reported this year, 12.5% of men are affected by mental health issues, and more likely than women to resort to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, so rather than talking about how they are feeling, doing whatever they can to hide it even further.

The consequences of this are seen in ONS statistics which show that 76% of suicides are by men, and this remains the biggest cause of death for men under 35.

Whilst the stigma around men’s mental health still remains, when such public figures as Prince William and Prince Harry talk openly about Princess Diana’s death and the impact it had on them, with mental health issues very much out in the open, and with the current younger generation increasingly open to talking about their own mental health, hopefully these long-entrenched attitudes will start to break down.

I have seen male clients from all backgrounds, ages and cultural backgrounds and the most important step they all said they took, was to acknowledge that something did not feel right and then to start to talk to a counsellor about it. But even then these long-entrenched attitudes that admitting to and then talking about mental health issues is a sign of weakness were still there and it took time for each of these clients to feel safe enough to let their guards down and start to talk.

Life throws all sorts of challenges at us, and our emotions are out body’s way of telling us we need to stop, listen and do something about it.

So don’t suffer in silence, taking that first step is a sign of strength and not weakness.

If there is one generational attitude which I want to encourage for the 21st century man, then is would be that ‘Big Boys do Cry’ and it’s ok to do so!

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