Hook Research attended the Southbank Centre’s annual Being a Man Festival in November, as part of our ongoing research into modern, urban masculinity. The current state of male mental health was a frequent topic throughout the festival’s varied talks; many contributors often lamented the brave masks that men felt they had to put on before facing the world.
Of the many interesting stats shared at the festival, these three most resonated with us. We’ve pieced them together with our own insights to have a brief peek under the surface of male mental health and masculinity.
77% of suicides in the UK are committed by men
At Hook Research, we’ve been exploring what it means to be a young man in the UK today. Speaking to a group of young professional men in Manchester, we asked them how often they share their feelings with their mates. Their answer? Practically never.
When we asked them how they deal with stress, this was their overwhelming reply:
“As a man, you’re not expected to get upset. Instead, you just bottle it up and then go mental. I did that last week. You can’t talk about anything, and instead you just go fucking crazy – the pressure is not supposed to get to you” (25 year-old male, Manchester)
Among today’s young men, there seems to be a fear of appearing “broken” and therefore “unmanly”; there is a belief that holding in your emotions and pretending that everything is “fine” is part of what it means to be a man.
As Matthew Haig author of Reasons to Stay Alive – a powerful book about dealing with depression – pointed out in an interview: “I think in some ways it’s harder for men, who are worried about fitting that macho, stoic stereotype. We often joke about men moaning about being ill, whether it’s man flu or anything else. We want them to be silent and strong about these things… And that’s quite dangerous when it comes to depression, because talking about it helps. People bottle it up until it’s too late.”
If you can’t share your thoughts and feelings with your closest friends, what can you do? Do you let them build up until you can just “go mental” on a night out? Or do you think about doing something much, much worse instead?
One in five 18-35 year old men admit to crying once a week
To me (a guy in his mid-twenties), that stat initially seemed staggeringly high. In my daily interactions with male friends, it’s rare to see any emotion other than upbeat, questionably-laddish, bravado.
But – statistically – if I were to gather my close group of male friends into a room, at least two of them would have shed a tear in the past seven days. And I’ve come round to thinking that this stat might not be too far off the mark.
86% of 15-17 year old boys don’t think it’s acceptable to cry in a public space
On a recent Skype conversation with a friend in the North, we briefly chatted about another friend who had just gone through a pretty nasty break-up. A big multi-year affair, now gone up in smoke.
At least, we were pretty sure he had. He hadn’t mentioned it to us directly, and the news had dribbled down through some trust-worthy, secondary sources.
A few weeks later, we all met up in London. While the friend in questions appeared quieter at times – perhaps a touch more pale – from the outside, you really wouldn’t be able to tell anything was off. After a few pints, we asked if he was OK. He said he was fine.
And that’s about as far as the conversation went. We haven’t spoken about it since.
Not much of a story, really – but that is precisely the problem. It’s what I think is at the heart of what’s contributing to male mental health problems across the nation: a two-sided problem in which men feel unable to talk about their emotions while their mates feel unable to ask.
Is that really what it means to be a man?
Exploring the changing face of male mental health and masculinity
We are continuing to navigate the eddies and swirls of masculinity in the Big Smoke, in an attempt to figure out how men understand themselves and the changing world in which they live.
We will be issuing our report on the current state of urban masculinity in early-2017 – sign up for the Hook Research monthly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on this exciting new insight piece.