Poor body image, eating disorders, “bigorexia” and suicide. It’s time to talk about men’s suffering – and we’re not talking about man flu. Here’s why saying “man up” is harmful;
Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 15-34. In the UK 75% of suicide victims are men.
One in 10 men who train in gyms could be suffering from “bigorexia” AKA muscle dysphoria.
This is an anxiety disorder, where despite being large and muscular, men feel small and weak.
It can lead to steroid abuse, mental health problems and even suicide.
Bigorexia is often described as the opposite of Anorexia. This is an eating disorder characterized by a desire to be thin and a fear of gaining weight.
The facts above suggest these are real, tangible problems. Yet when issues like eating disorders or mental health are covered, it’s often (though not always) with a focus on women. Why?
Research suggests that men are less likely to recognise health symptoms themselves. They’re also less likely to come forward for a check-up. The same is true for mental health disorders, where men are less likely to report symptoms than women.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that when exploring these issues we focus on women rather than men. After all, the numbers suggest that women may be more at risk. Eating disorders are 10 times more common in women than men. Women are 40% more likely to develop a mental illness than men.
Yet this isn’t providing the full story. Matt Haig notes that whilst UK women may be more likely to suffer from depression, more men commit suicide. “As suicide is usually a symptom of depression, this suggests men are not getting the help they need.”
Dig deeper and you realise this all comes down to those pesky “traditional” gender roles that men and women are supposed to adhere to.
Psychologist Will Meek defines gender roles as “a set of attitudes, behaviours, and self-presentation methods ascribed to members of a certain biological sex”
(FYI the World health Organisation (WHO) defines “Sex” as “biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women”
and “Gender” as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.”)
So when describing Western traditional gender roles for men, think: don’t cry, stay tough, and work hard. Man up, essentially.
Working with men-only therapy groups Dr. Martin Seager identified the “three rules of masculinity”. Be a fighter and a winner, be a provider and a protector, retain mastery and control.
“If you break any of those, you don’t feel like a man.
So if you don’t have a job, for a woman that’s awful, but if [a] man doesn’t have a job he doesn’t feel he can provide or protect – so he’s lost his masculinity. That’s why the suicide rate for the unemployed is greater for men.”
Seager believes that “this isn’t genetic: we are biologically evolved as male.” Put simply; our image of a “male” is influenced by society.
Now, it could be argued that our society is slowly becoming more accepting of different ideas of masculinity. Yet the pressure of fitting within the “traditional” gender roles is such that some men find it hard to come forward when perceiving symptoms to be “un-manly”.
For example, a study of 135 men with eating disorders found that several bulimia victims were ashamed of suffering from a disorder typically associated with females.
It’s important to remember that women also face longstanding destructive cultural practices. The phrase “man up” pressurises men, emphasising that they should aspire to be masculine.
Yet it also belittles women by portraying “feminine” behaviour as inferior.
So, whilst it’s OK to question whether “man up” is “the most destructive phrase in modern culture” we should probably focus on calling out negative stereotypes which affect both men and women.
Talk about it! Raising awareness will help us get past gender stereotypes and allow men AND women to come forward and get the help they need.
There are lots of resources and helplines if you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental or physical problems.
READ: The Men’s Health Forum provides information and raises awareness on issues surrounding men.
SPEAK: Mental health charities like Mind run helplines so you can get help even if you don’t want to speak to someone you know.
Samaritans run a free 24-hour helpline; you don’t have to give any personal details if you don’t want to. If something is troubling you, then get in touch.
Think we missed something? Let us know firstname.lastname@example.org
Our mental health is about our ability to cope with what life throws at us and how we feel about ourselves in this big scary world.
No one has perfect mental health or feels great all of the time. That’s something we all go through. What not everybody goes through is a mental illness, or what you could also call a mental health concern or a mental health problem.
BUT more people than you might think go through a mental illness: in England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, most often in the form of a mixture of anxiety and depression. Also, 1 in 10 children and young people have mental disorders in a given year.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains mental illness as: “a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”
Errmm, not too specific is it? The problem with trying to explain mental illness is that it can be so many different kinds of things.
Mental illness is a bit like fruit. There are so many different kinds, like who decided strawberries and tomatoes are the same kind of food? Also, even within the same kind of fruit, like bananas, you never get two that are the same kind of bendiness or yellowness. It’s the same deal with mental illness.
We can at least break it down into different kinds of mental health problems. There are different kinds of depression, stress, sleeping disorders, eating and body image disorders and personality disorders, which you can get more concrete details on here.
The symptoms of a mental illness can be things we all experience from time to time like feeling down, stressed or having trouble sleeping. The difference is that for a period of time (e.g. two weeks for depression) the same symptoms are much stronger, or won’t seem to go away, and begin to be massive barriers to the person experiencing them leading a normal life. ‘Pain in the arse’ doesn’t even cover it.
These problems can be triggered by a number of different things, from serious trauma to everyday stress. A sucky thing about mental health concerns is that often there is no clear cause or explanation. This can make things feel even worse for the person experiencing it because they can’t find a ‘legit’ reason to explain why they feel bad.
Remember the banana thing from earlier? We can’t really explain what any one person goes through when they experience mental illness.
But that’s cool because the internet is a goldmine for things to help us understand what it’s like to live with mental illnesses.
There is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. This is because mental illness is not always understood as being like any other illness, and mentally ill people can be accused of being lazy or attention seeking. A whopping 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience discrimination. Not cool.
The thing is, as Professor Weare of Southampton Uni told the Guardian: “You wouldn’t go to someone lying in bed with a fever and tell them they could get up if they wanted to. There is a failure to understand that mental health problems are an illness – they are not something that you can snap out of and are not anybody’s fault.”
Mental health support charity Mind have a great page of advice on this.
It’s all super basic BFF stuff that you probably have down already: Hear what they’re telling you and show your support. Sending postcards and letters, even if you live in the same neighbourhood can be a great way of showing you’re there for them while still giving them space.
Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are, but remember that the problem they are going through is just one part of who they are, so don’t focus too much on it. Try to keep in mind how you would treat someone with a serious disease or broken bone. Saying things like ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘just try and cheer up’ are definite no-nos.
Recognising the issue for what it is is already half the battle, and getting the ball rolling on recovery by seeking professional advice is the other half. Some people go a long time feeling like the reason why they have a hard time getting through a day is because of some sort of personal failure, not because of an illness that there are many possible ways out of.
Talk to your friends and family, but also connect with people going through similar things. For example you can enjoy podcast Mental Health Happy Hour.
Mental Health Explained: Mental health is how we all cope with the world. Mental illnesses are disorders which make that much more difficult. Imagine that you’ve got a problem with your heart or your liver, but instead it’s a problem with your brain – mental illness is just that, an illness.
The 2015 Liberal Democrat Manifesto has now been released. Want to make some sense of it…read on.
In a sentence: Opportunity, equality and prosperity to all!
Sound fair? Read on…
Raise tax-free allowance to £12,500.
Lib Dems are giving themselves until 2017/2018 to BALANCE THE BUDGET. How? By cutting less than the Tories, and spending less than Labour. Sounds like middle child syndrome.
Make sure the rich “pay their share” and corporations are unable to avoid the right taxes… ahem Amazon.
Local areas will have more control with the economic decisions that affect them.
This will be easier with an extra £2.5 billion to be added to England’s education budget.
Guarantee education funding and support from nursery all the way to the grand old age of 19.
Put qualified teachers in every class AND they’ll have to have a minimum of a B grade in GCSE English and Maths in order to teach.
Free school meals for all primary school pupils.
No more state schools that make profit.
Promote STEM subjects in schools and encourage those young entrepreneurs.
How many times have you had to use osmosis since you left school? Lib Dems will introduce a “curriculum for life” – so that’s actually learning useful things such as finance skills (seriously how do you even do a tax return?), first aid, lifesaving skills, citizenship, sex and relationship education.
Aim to double the number of businesses offering apprenticeships.
Throw in an extra £8 billion to the NHS.
Mental health = physical health = same status and importance. How? Throw in extra £500 million to mental health care.
Get tough with tax evasion and avoidance by removing lots of loopholes for the sneaky peoples.
Finish what they started: something called Universal Credit – which means people will always be better off in work than on benefits.
If your company has more than 250 employees, you better start publishing differences of pay between the hes and the shes. This sounds familiar…I think this was poached from the Conservative Manifesto, or vice versa. Funny that.
Leading by example: by April 2016 all those working in government departments will receive a living wage, and the Lib Dems will encourage all public sectors to pay a fair living wage too.
Can you say DaDa? Expand “shared parental leave” and paternity leave to encourage fathers to take time off with their young children.
Increase free childcare for all 2 year olds from 15 hours a week to 20.
Too many free bee’s for Nana: if you’re a pensioner and receiving an income that pays tax at the higher rate of 40% (aka. a larger income), Lib Dems are cutting you off from Winter Fuel Payments and free TV licenses BUT you will still keep your free bus pass.
Plant a tree for every child born. Yep, that’s a lotta trees.
Waste not, want not: aim to have England recycling 70% of their rubbish.
A Green Transport Act: every new bus/taxi must be ultra low emission by 2030, and every car by 2040; low emission zones in busy towns and cities.
A Zero Carbon Britain Act: all about reducing greenhouse gases, so that’s less coal and more of this buzzword: decarbonizing.
A Green Buildings Act: painting the houses green? Not far off. Lib Dems will introduce a discount on council tax for homes that improve their energy efficiency – that’s what you call an incentive.
Rent To Own: where your monthly payments slowly buy you a stake in the property. KaCHING!
Help to Rent: deposit loans to help the young’uns get their first place.
Almost every household to have high speed broadband.
A sort of mansion tax but with a different name: High Value Property Levy (see what they did there?). This will be for properties over £2 million and will have a banded structure, like council tax, so it is proportionate to the value of your home.
Keep the current cap on a household’s benefits and try and measure this against what the average family income is. What even is an average family?
Encourage landlords to lower their rent by paying them this thing called Housing Benefit directly.
16 and 17 year olds: you have the vote.
Give more powers to Wales, just like Scotland. These are called devolved powers.
Make actual rules for these election TV debates, because, let’s be honest, the will they/won’t they saga has been annoying/boring.
Better border checks because we wanna know who’s coming in and who’s going out.
End FGM in the UK and abroad – yes FGM, that’s female genital mutilation, happens right here in the UK with an estimated 20,000 girls at risk.
Remain in the EU.
16-21? Say hello to your new discount bus pass.
Rail upgrades across the country and general transport improvements.
Opposed to airport expansion and any new airport in Greater London area.
Enough with the Facebook stalking: Lib Dems will protect your internet privacy rights with a Digital Bill of Rights so everyone can control their own personal data.
The General Election is just around the corner…
Will you be voting for the Liberal Democrats on May 7th?
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What else do you feel the Lib Dems aren’t quite covering? Let us know in the comment box below.