Dave Luck: What’s So Manly About Manning Up?

  • 3 min read

Dave Luck strides into the argument over mental health with this brilliant article exposing the importance of men talking openly about their feelings.

Men talking

On Friday Piers Morgan tweeted:

“I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough- man up.”

In later tweets he appeared to say he had a problem with celebrity attention seekers (not real mental illness) and men ‘emoting’ in public. There are a couple of glaring ironies – his own prolific celebrity use of social media to raise the issues that matter to him, and the fact that part of his fame is encouraging other celebrities (including men) to let it all out on his prime time TV programme.

More important for me is to question the idea of manhood he is suggesting. This is a reversion to the stiff upper lip/ boys don’t cry model, which has been challenged recently by Prince Harry and the mental health charity Heads Together, which actively encourages people to talk about their mental health.

Prince Harry made it clear that ‘manning up’ and keeping a stiff upper lip did his mental health a great deal of damage – is Piers Morgan suggesting he was wrong to get therapy, and wrong to then talk about it to others so that this could help them? Similarly is he saying that Heads Together supporters like Freddie Flintoff and Professor Green were wrong to speak up?

Three out of every four suicides are by men and it is the biggest killer of young men. With one in four people suffering a mental health problem each year, it is vital to break the stigma that surrounds it so that people can access support – currently only one in four people suffering mental health distress seek support. Many suffer alone – withdrawing and becoming isolated – so we see that mental health problems wreck lives.

Put frankly most men are not very good at talking about things that matter. Doing it more will be good for them, the people around them and society as a whole. If Piers finds that uncomfortable, he has issues and I suggest he goes and has a chat with someone where he can emote as privately as he wishes.

As a Christian I believe people are all made in God’s image and have an intrinsic value. We do not need to prove ourselves to be good enough – in this case being “enough of a man”. I believe I have been created to have emotions and that it’s okay to express these in forms other than banter. I believe I have been made a social animal and that part of dealing with the fact that life is tough, is needing the support of the people around me, rather than repressing my emotions and pretending everything is okay when it’s not.

In my work in mental health commissioning I work with some great organisations who help people to talk about how life is for them, and provide avenues for people to mutually support one another. Through this I met Sean who spent years manning up 1, including drinking himself to sleep every night to deal with his depression. It took being interrupted during a suicide attempt to lead him to seek help. He found liberation in being able to talk to people at Springboard mental health cafes, and has since helped countless others as a volunteer by offering a compassionate ear. That’s the sort of manhood I am inspired by.

As for Piers my first reactions were not too charitable but I pray that he will be able to talk to someone in depth when he needs to, and that he will use his influence to help others do so too.

1 Sheffield Star. January 19th 2017

Sean said: “When I first went to a cafe I’d never spoken to anyone about how I felt, not even after I’d tried to kill myself. I just thought I needed to ‘man up’ and get on with things, and I lived like this for years. But I can’t believe how much better I feel. It’s so important to get things off your chest. It really is like halving your problems, even if you’re not solving them. And it’s so common for people to feel low. I used to think people didn’t really care about anyone else and I was the only one feeling like I did. But it’s not true.”

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