Recently I heard of the sad news of a lad from my old school taking his own life at the age of 20. As is often the case he was the last person you would expect to hear such terrible news about, always laughing, joking and loved nothing more than going to the football with the lads. Although stereotypes have changed in recent times, there is still social pressure for men to be independent, strong and bottle up their emotion and worries.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under the age of 50. Let that statistic sink in. Not cancer, not disease, not car accidents: suicide. From this shocking statistic it is clear that men are not getting the help they need and the stigma surrounding men’s mental health still very much exists.
It is common for people suffering from mental health problems to hide it effectively and it is nearly always the last people you would expect. Two high profile examples of this are Tyson Fury and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Both are seen as highly successful and above all ‘tough guys’, however both have opened up about having suffered with mental health problems in the past.
Mental health can affect anyone, but stigmas and social pressures prevent many men opening up and getting the help they desperately need. We live in a society where men feel pressured to conform to an often unrealistic ‘macho’ image and talking about personal problems is seen as a weakness. For over 10 years men have been growing moustaches in the name of Movember, an increasingly well known non profit charity which raises awareness for men’s health, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention. Since the charity was launched the campaign has raised over £440m for research into men’s health issues. With charities like this becoming ever more popular, men’s mental health is finally getting the publicity it needs.
There is no question that university life is stressful; exams, coursework deadlines, moving away from home, and any number of other possibilities. Imperial have a well established Student Counselling Service, with counsellors available at South Kensington, Hammersmith and Silwood Park Campuses.
So what can we do? In a generation when suicide rates are as high as ever, we all have a responsibility to push for a cultural change. As guys, we should not shy away from opening up about our emotions and we should reach out to others in their time of need.
So come on lads, look out for each other.