In modern New Zealand, the understanding of men’s mental health is on the rise. As a whole, access to health care concerning mental health is somewhat easier, those who previously may have struggled to get help; minority groups and poorer areas of society are now being encouraged to seek help.
Also the fast approaching mental health week from the 5th to 11th of October means awareness can only improve from here.
Even though awareness of mental health is at an all-time high, stereotypes still lurk. Both in the shadows and in places for all to see. As a result many who struggle with mental health issues are isolated or judged – their feelings denied as authentic by a wider society, who still seems to lack an understanding of what the term mental health means for the lives of individuals. The fact that we, a modern society who now has headphone-jack-free phones; still struggle with this understanding and practice judgement toward others stuns me.
Let me ask you this, if a person is already grappling with a mental illness why should they also have to battle societies judgement?
In many ways the stigma surrounding this type of illness furthers its negative effect. Why is this stigma existent? It is something that can and must be changed for the benefit of not only those suffering as a result of the stigmatic views but also society itself. There must be change now and for the future.
Attitudes towards mental health in general are sketchy enough. However, the attitudes toward men’s mental health brings with it an entirely new stigma.
People are particularly judgemental toward men who struggle with mental health issues. I believe this is because of outlook. If living by constructed standards we, men; are meant to be tough, taught to only show brawn and never show emotion at any point in our teenage years.
These understandings are carried through to the adult years of our lives too. Unless the mould is broken. It doesn’t have to be this way. Often however, men are taught this fact too late.
This means a large majority of men end up avoiding their diagnosis or hiding it away, through fear of, if they were to acknowledge their struggles, not living up to how a man should be. The harsh reality is that avoidance, allows mental health to worsen and furthers a plague that no person should have to battle alone.
For those battling mental health alone or in the shadows, living this aspect of life is very exclusive and potentially dangerous – it can lead to mental health severely deteriorating very rapidly. The judgement that’s present in society, especially towards men, is not only a personal issue, but for thousands has quickly become a national health crisis. I found this out by doing my own research and chatting to my teachers for a project. The way to stop this crisis is to start an open conversation between communities and individuals regarding mental health.
One thing that we can do is start this conversation, actively make change and live healthier lives in every sense. People are generally living their lives unhealthily. Some of this is due to medication and other factors such as smoking. Unhealthy living is more likely to further the effects and manifestations of a mental illness – it is when we make a choice to live healthier that we see a catalyst for change and positive management of mental illness. This is something we can all do, live healthy.
While doing so you may also aid the honest conversation about mental health.
I believe there also needs to be an improvement to the accessibility of swift health care. If someone visited North Shore Hospital for a broken leg you would expect to be treated within a reasonable time period or almost instantly due to the standards society hold for physical injuries and illnesses. However go to North Shore Hospital for mental health illness, you’d potentially be looking at an eight week wait, or longer – to be treated by the health care system that currently exists.
Although you could argue this point, the fact remains that our system for treatment of mental health issues, is flawed and this furthers the stigma of faced.
I believe that a place for a conversation regarding mental health to begin is by talking about flaws of our current health care system. Once we talk about ours flaws, we can become solution focused. How can we make this better? Becomes the subject line of mental health conversation in New Zealand. I cannot wait to see this day.
I wrote parts of this article for school as an open letter to our health Minister Mr Coleman and now I am putting my words here – because I want to be active in this conversation. Lets start now