Fuck the Stigma: Men Have to Talk about their Feelings too

I remember being at secondary school when I first heard about people self-harming. It all sounded so strange to me and I immediately and somewhat shamefully thought, “Oh, what attention seekers.”

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I woke up to my 24-year-old big brother crying in the bathroom – this was the first time I’d ever heard him cry. His chest was covered in blood, I couldn’t understand what had happened. Initially, my mum and I had thought he had coloured himself with red paint. It sounds bizarre but I would have never in a million years imagined that he would hurt himself. After that moment everything bundled into one big blur.

He was then admitted into The Priory where he lived for a few months. I’d sometimes go visit him but it was a strange, sad place, and you could just sense that it was haunted with horrible events.

Yayoi Kusama channels her mental illness into art installments across the world.

He tried everything from slamming his head into walls, burning himself with lighters, smashing the light bulb in his room to use as a means of self-harming, sneaking out and buying razors to cut himself, to overdosing on antidepressants. Today he is left with scars for life and the over dose triggered him to have on and off seizures.

It makes you feel incredibly helpless when someone you love is hurting so much on the inside that any kind of physical pain is better. Yet after three years of this I am grateful and happy to still have my brother here with me today. Although he is still troubled, for the first time ever he is open to trying group therapy sessions and meditation. Basically I just really want to be able to do something to help.

As a non-professional it may seem that there is nothing you can do to help change that person’s mindset. However, I want to encourage everyone to talk about it as I think it is important to remember that it is not just the person who is mentally unwell who is affected. I’m sure many of you reading this have been affected by a friend or family member who has had depression or anxiety. No matter how big or small you may think the issue is, if it is affecting you it is worth talking about it.

The most effective way to feeling better is by talking to people you feel most comfortable with, like your closest friends. But of course, there is no harm in going to the doctor. If someone were to pull a muscle then they wouldn’t think twice about seeking medical attention, and it should be the same when discussing mental health – it is just as important to address it properly.

I was so inspired to see the Royals speaking out about such taboo topics. If you haven’t read about this yet I strongly advise looking into Prince Harry’s battle with mental health after his mother’s death. It’s truly inspirational to see someone with a status as high as Harry’s revealing his vulnerability to the world, showing us that all types of people are affected by mental health. 

During my time at University I have certainly learnt a lot about mental health. Most important of all, I have come to understand that there is so such stigma surrounding men discussing their emotions. Lets face it, most guys, (including the ones reading this) do not feel like they can genuinely talk to their mates about how they are feeling. Whether it’s about a girl, a personal problem or an insecurity, it’s not “masculine” or conventional to discuss it.

Even on a more menial day to day level, there are examples of men ‘securing’ their masculinity. Men feel a need to massively underplay how much they like a girl to their mates because, again, there is so much stigma attached with a boy who is “wet”.

As a girl, although not to say all girls are like this, I feel I am the complete opposite. I’ve gotten through so many tough times in my life through talking about them with my closest friends and I honestly don’t think I would have overcome so much without them. Men need to be able to have the same coping mechanisms as us. 

A recent thing I’ve tried is writing down how I feel and I suppose even this article is a way of coping. Although it may seem very cringey writing a “Dear Diary,” entry, it is actually a really great way of logging your feelings and looking back at all the progress you have made. For example, you may have written down how shit you felt two weeks back and since then been completely oblivious to how your mental state has improved bit by bit. I think you’d be surprised at how rewarding it is (I know I certainly am). It is an effective way for men to avoid stigma, but still talk about it.

For obvious reasons I’ve decided to keep this anonymous as I often find when you hear about traumatic events people have gone through you view them differently. For me it isn’t about that. It’s about making a change.

I want my brother’s story to inspire any readers and in particular male readers to talk about how you feel. Honestly, just fuck the stigma attached to it if you’re a guy. The likeliness is that your best mate is having the exact same dilemma too.

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