Taking It Like A Man Is Killing Our Men


22/08/2016 10:00 AM AEST | Updated 22/08/2016 12:40 PM AEST
Adrian Samson
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You've probably seen it pop up in your Facebook feed over the past few weeks -- men around the world taking photos of themselves doing the 'okay' symbol with their hand, while also nominating five of their mates to do the same thing.

You may have wondered what it was all about and if you read the copy that was alongside the photo, you would no doubt have found yourself shocked by the numbers. The movement is all about changing the conversation around mental health and raising awareness for suicide prevention.

In Australia, suicide is the biggest killer of Australian men aged 15 to 44, eclipsing road death, cancer and heart disease. Three times as many men compared to women take their own lives.

Globally, 510,000 men die from suicide each year -- that's one every minute. And yet, it's hidden in the shadows and shrouded in stigma.

There's no denying that mental health problems affect men and women of all ages. Research tells us that women suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression. However, mental health outcomes are weighted against men because most blokes don't handle mental illness well.

Women are more likely to talk about what's going on and seek help for mental health problems, whereas we men are great at bottling things up and toughing it out -- even if we're in a pretty bad place.

We can't afford to stay silent. We need to talk about the tough stuff and we need to act.

This is the most significant health issue we face and not taking action can lead you down a very dark path, with devastating results.

Across the world, the facts speak clearly: men aren't going to the doctor soon enough. They're not comfortable talking about their health and their feelings. They struggle in silence, or take action too late.

Talking about the big stuff -- health, relationships, tough times -- isn't easy for anyone, but traditional concepts of masculinity are putting an extra burden on men.

We need to bring attention (and funding) to the biggest crisis in men's health. We need to encourage men to talk more with their friends, and find healthy ways to cope with difficult feelings and circumstances.

I know first-hand it isn't easy to talk. As boys, we were raised to not show emotions, not show vulnerability, to bottle things up and to get on with it. Don't cry. Toughen up. Don't act like a girl. Don't talk about your feelings.

Society's attitudes and expectations of how men should be are part of the problem. We need to challenge these attitudes and behaviours and make it okay for men to talk and get help when they need it. The uncomfortable truth is that traditional notions of what it is to be a man today are killing men.

Conversations really do help men stay mentally healthy and we know there is a close association with suicide and poor mental health. It's time for men everywhere to break their silence and to recognise the key to overcoming some of the biggest problems is to start talking.

So when you see the #itsokaytotalk photos popping up on your social networks, join the conversation.

Men, it's okay to talk. And we need to, especially when things get tough.

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