Opinion & Debates Editor | Nicholas Ross
Movember is an NGO whose missions are raising awareness for male issues like male mental health and prostate cancer and donating to relevant groups. For the last few years it has funded millions of pounds worldwide to donate to organisations such as The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Its aims are noble but imply a sad reality about the state of affairs for men in the world.
Although the rate of male suicide in the United Kingdom is, according to statistics published by The Samaritans, at its lowest in 30 years, thousands of men still kill themselves every year here. The suffering individual knows the nightmarish reality of having mental health issues, whether they suffer insomnia, depression or anxiety. They know the ways in which their mind, preoccupied with constant and exhausting emotional distress, causes problems in the various branches of their life: hindering academic achievement, distracting from pursuits and responsibilities in their careers, ruining physical health as their energy diminishes to the point at which exercise pole-vaults away from their life, casting shadows on romances until there is nothing but darkness where once was the light of love. These mental afflictions can feel all the more tragic if people blame themselves, under some circumstances deeming their experience unnecessary yet inescapable. Circumstance may also be the cause of a mental health problem, and its sufferer might predict only endless helplessness and situational stasis.
Statistics of male depression and suicide are disseminated widely, but shocking as they are, our attention is finite; we are distracted by our own responsibilities. To put effort into helping someone who is not close to you when you are already pressed for time with deadlines and a busy schedule may feel like the work of a saint, and therefore morally superfluous. Institutions such as universities and corporations have inadvertently emptied society of the goodness and moral principles necessary for helping one another for its own sake. Our time has been made too important; at every moment in our lives we feel we have so much to gain or to lose, our potential loss of essay marks or a fingernail’s grip on the next part of a career ladder. But these small things amount to little in the grand scheme of one’s life or the life of another person.
We are all hungry for profit or achievement, so we work harder for our bosses and our goals, devoting a lot of our time and energy. The sense of a common bond of humanity is lost while we primarily experience life as isolated entities attempting to achieve these individual goals. This competitive world is why failure becomes so significant and can cause mental health problems to the point of suicidal tendencies. Psychological research suggests there are several reasons for high male suicide rates, including more severe male reactions to the breakdowns of relationships, which may themselves be caused by career or monetary-related stresses.
Nowadays there are so many victims of mental health problems where people are either working or spending what little time they have enjoying themselves, it feels as if they cannot help everyone. In such a world as this, education about noticing signals of depression is useful but limited because some people hide things. Robin Williams, a comedian with a beaming grin, committed suicide to the shock of many people who could not understand the misery of a celebrity who appeared to them onscreen to be spritely and well. Your animated and jocular colleagues might be facing deep issues every day which they have no intention of sharing.
So, when it is possible to identify signs of depression, of course we must do our best to help others. But because we are distracted and exhausted we can fail to spot subtle red-flags. While work is being done in the psychological sector to find ways of improving male mental health, other political improvements are necessary to create a better system. If wages are higher and unemployment is lower, for instance, men are less likely to lose their jobs, their partners, the potential for enjoying their lives without making robotic commutes for underpaid careers. In the meantime, the promotion and prevalence of groups like The Samaritans should be encouraged, so that men with mental health issues are aware of easy access to people who can help them.
Samaritans helpline (for emotional support regarding any situation): 116 123