Today is Time to Talk Day – a time to help raise awareness about mental health and encourage others to reach out for the support they need. And on this day, we’d like to share an important message.
Helping those who are struggling and in need of support is central to the work of all committed human right defenders. Human rights is about dignity, equality and respect. The right to health and wellbeing is a human right – yes and that includes sexual, physical and emotional wellbeing. In addition to ensuring that we have access to the right resources, we however also need to tackle the socio-cultural barriers to accessing such care and ensuring the wellbeing of everyone – regardless of their gender identity, age, ethnic background, sexuality, nationality or any other characteristics that make up our identity.
And yes, this means that we need to start addressing some of the toxic gender “norms” which encourage men to bottle up their feelings. These toxic gender norms often cause men (and women) to believe that masculinity is about hiding your feelings, keeping things to yourself and suffering in silence. These norms dictate that “men shouldn’t cry”, that “being manly” is about putting on a “front” at all costs.
Well we couldn’t agree less! We believe – like many others – that we need to break down these stereotypes, these binary “norms” and encourage dialogue and action based on positive masculinity.
And that’s why we’re speaking out. As as Advocacy and Outreach Manager for Voice of Salam, Stephen in particular believes that it’s incredibly important for him to speak about how for the last seven years he has lived a constant battle in terms of his mental health – a battle in which his very own mind seemed to conspire against him.
As a young male, he never used to talk about his mental health:
I found it too embarrassing. I didn’t want to seem “weak”. I thought my friends would not understand and would see me as a joke. I thought speaking out would plant a black mark against my name when it came to seeking future employment.
Thankfully, Stephen’s been able to talk about his experiences and develop on his mental health journey: “Now I am much more open about my mental health and from that It’s incredible the amount of support I have received from friends and family.”
Here’s Stephen’s story in his own words:
Right now there is so much more that needs to be done. In fact, did you know that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health condition? Sadly, many will not be receiving the support they need. So its time to talk, to give them the confidence to talk and get the care they need. Men cry too, men feel too. Any one of us – regardless of our gender identity – could be/end up suffering from a mental health condition.
So let’s break down these toxic gender norms, let’s encourage a positive sense of masculinity which encourages men to be confident and to support the women in their lives at the same time.
Please share Stephen’s story, like and share this blog and remember: men cry too. We all cry. We’re all human and we’re all worthy.
It’s #TimetoTalk. So let’s talk!
With our best wishes,
Liz and Stephen,
The Voice of Salam team