International Men’s Day: Making a Difference for Men and Boys

19 November is International Men’s Day, the objectives are to focus on men and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promotion gender equality and highlighting positive male role models.

With so many issues in the world, it may not seem important to mark this day but CALM, a charity created to prevent male suicide in the UK, highlighted shocking statistics of male suicide, which accounts for 76% of all suicides. In the UK, it’s the single biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45.

Research conducted and feedback CALM received, revealed that men are uncomfortable talking about how they feel when they’re down, as they’re expected to be strong at all times, and not being so, shows weakness or failure as a man.

This does not come as a surprise, as many of us may recognise these feelings in the men we know or perhaps feel the same way as a fellow man. But when we consider this serious issue, a large part of the problem could be down to gender stereotypes. We live in a society where majority of the top positions are occupied by men, men are considered to be breadwinners as often women earn less, and in the workplace, male characteristics are usually seen as more attractive than female ones.

This is not an attempt to use International Men’s Day to highlight women’s issues, but these points can make it easy to think that men have it easier, and in some ways they do, but perceived male roles and stereotypes can also have a negative side. Men are expected to be tough even from a young age, and at times, can feel the pressure of being the main provider for their families. Our society raises children on stereotypes like ‘boys don’t cry’, we praise boys on their strength and girls on their looks, and growing up, men are told to ‘be a man’ or ‘man up’ in certain situations.

These stereotypes are encouraged from a young age across all channels and men are expected to be able to handle things, but not talking about how you really feel isn’t necessarily handling a situation. So what can be done? CALM have launched their #BiggerIssues campaign to encourage people to ditch the small talk on social media and highlight the important issue of male suicide.

Another figure published by CALM was that 42% of men aged 18-45 have considered suicide. These are our brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, sons, colleagues and friends. We need to promote awareness campaigns so men know where they can find support. We need to let the men in our lives know that they can talk to us without judgement, that it’s ok to cry and not be able to handle things sometimes. We need to discourage negative gender stereotypes from developing in children, so they can be who they are and not be held back by these gender issues. Men need to know that they can be more open and it's important to support each other as well.

And on 19 November, we can all send a text or message to an important man/men in our lives or do something nice like take them out to dinner. Let them know we appreciate them and that we’re here if they ever need our support.

More information

If you or someone you know needs to talk about the issues covered in this article, contact CALM and SAMARITANS

For general men’s health information, go to the Men’s Health Forum and NHS website.

The Let Toys Be Toys campaign is trying to stop the toy industry from encouraging gender stereotypes with their marketing. 

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