Time to move on from ‘man up’ to 'I got you' in regards to mental health

This month marks Male Mental Health Awareness Month, and while some might question why one gender is being highlighted over another when it comes to mental health, it’s worth remembering the two little words heard time and again when someone feels uneasy – “man up”.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 5:00 pm
There is support for men with mental health issues - and it is time to move on from the 'man up' to a I got you' approach.

Those two words suggest that a man shouldn’t be affected by mental health issues, he should just ‘suck it up’ and get on with life, regardless of how he feels.

But mental health issues affect all of us, and the latest statistics from Childline showed 45% of the 250,000 calls received last year were from children who needed to talk about their emotions and mental health.

One boy told his counsellor he had been hiding his emotions, but “it’s becoming a struggle though and now I have gone back to wearing my mask, it’s harder and I’m alone”.

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Expectations are heaped on young people – by peers, society, parents and themselves – and weigh heavy on young shoulders. They are expected to do well at school, make friends and enjoy their lives free of stress and anxiety, and parents might struggle to understand just how or why they might feel like everything is not okay.

Being a young person in 2019 is very different to how it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, with social media only adding to the pressures faced when parents were of a similar age.

One of the most important things to understand is that it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s essential that if you are feeling unhappy or have concerns, you have someone to speak to – whether that’s a friend, family member, or one of our specially-trained Childline counsellors.

Childline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free to phone on 0800 1111. There’s also the option to contact our counsellors for advice or to speak about their feelings in electronic messages, and read suggestions or advice on our website, www.childline.org.uk

We are glad that children are getting in contact when they need to talk, and we encourage anyone with children to try to open up conversations about mental health – even something as simple as asking ‘are you alright’ for a second time, if the first question is dismissed, can encourage someone struggling with their mental health to speak out.

The simple fact is that suppressing emotions without seeking some sort of help or support can lead to worsening mental health, anxiety, depression, or worse, self-harm, abuse of others or suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is one of the biggest causes of death in young men in the UK, and this Men’s Mental Health Awareness month, we want to make it clear it’s not alright to tell boys to ‘man up’ anymore.

Instead, we need to be encouraging children to talk about their feelings so that they can develop healthy habits of processing their emotions as early as possible, to better develop their emotional wellbeing in later life.

This year, the NSPCC has launched a new campaign to do just that.

#IGotYou is an initiative designed to motivate children and young people to check on the wellbeing of their friends, because sometimes just knowing someone is there to support you can be the help they need.

The campaign is focused on children and young people, encouraging them to look out for each other. It calls on young people who are concerned about their friends to simply share a message of support, and let their friend know “I got you”.

Let’s try to move on from two simple words to three – from “man up”, to “I got you”.