This subject has been percolating in my head for a few years as It’s quite complex and it has taken a great deal of time to research information and process it alongside my own lived and observed experiences.
Recent news, research reports and conversations about masculinity have also been a catalyst for others to share their own thoughts on the subject, which have helped me to reach some amount of clarity to be able to write something I feel worthy of sharing.
A short bit of background information is necessary before I get into the core of the subject. Over the last six or seven years I have become more aware and concerned with the high rate of suicide by relatively young men. Having worked with many young students I have also gained an insight into some of the signs that may lead to this unfortunate circumstance as well as what preventative action can be taken to avoid the worst outcome. It was this first hand awareness of mental health issues, in both males and females, that led me to becoming a Mental Health First Aider in January 2015.
After some further foundational courses in psychotherapy and research into becoming a qualified Counsellor, it became clear that this method of helping people with their mental health wasn’t suited to myself. However a more preventative and positive approach through Coaching was more in keeping with who I am, so I could help people process their current situation and work towards a positive outcome, therefore instilling an empowered mindset that could decrease the likelihood of mental illness. It may seem a little idealistic to some, but it feels like the most effective way that I can personally help people.
With the biggest issue of my concern, as mentioned earlier, being the high rate of male suicide, I have been trying to understand some of the early indicators that this could be a risk, so that it could be tackled before it gets to the point where a mental health practitioner would need to get involved.
Many psychological reports and articles have put forward the simplified suggestion that men should talk more about their emotions and stop bottling them up. On the surface this seems like a sensible suggestion, however it neglects the complex and regularly hidden thought processes of the male mindset.
I should point out at this stage that there are some men who are already comfortable speaking relatively openly about their feelings, but this is certainly not the majority. There are also a small percentage of women who have a proclivity towards the masculine mindset.
Due to the inherent nature of men to be the provider and protector, they often hold back from sharing their emotions in order to be the calming, stable and stoic voice in difficult and potentially volatile situations. This behaviour of suppressing their emotions to protect those they care for can be unhealthy if done on a frequent and long term basis. So it’s crucial for men to have an outlet of some kind. This isn’t necessarily just the talking suggestion described above, but another physical activity like team sports, solo exercise, building or fixing things, practicing an artform of some kind like music, painting, writing or sculpting. The male mindset predominantly finds it easier to process their thoughts inwardly and only outwardly when they’re ready to share their conclusion.
Forcing or pushing a man to share his emotions before he’s ready is likely to result in a negative reaction such as short answers, joking responses to downplay the situation or sometimes a level of aggression from a raised voice to physical violence towards inanimate objects and occasionally other people. This suppressed emotion, if not given the opportunity to be processed independently and healthily, can have the opposite effect of protecting the relevant people it was suppressed for.
So how can men develop their process of dealing with their suppressed emotions in a way that suits them as well as protecting those they care about?
A fellow Coach, who has a lot more experience than myself, has recently developed a well thought out system and has put it all into a video on YouTube that is well worth the 27 minutes watch time. So take a look at Sean’s video at the below link and share it with anyone else who you feel may benefit from what he talks about.
If you or a man you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help via one or both of the following links:-