Nothing makes me happier than seeing a man cry.
To be clear, I don’t go around making men cry. I just like to see a man own his emotions. From watching the Grandfathers of Olympians weep with joy, to the men of Masterchef tear up over a pastry-gone-wrong, I like seeing men who aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Which is why my Facebook Newsfeed is making me feel all warm and fuzzy right now.
A mental health campaign has swept across social media, encouraging men to talk about their feelings. Using the hashtag ‘#itsokaytotalk’, men are sharing pictures of themselves making the ‘ok’ sign, with various statistics about the high rate of male suicide, and with an underlying message to speak up about depression and anxiety.
Watch Christian Williams talk about the importance of asking for help. (Post continues after video.)
Big names have jumped on board, with tweets of support from Ricky Gervais, Danny Cipriani, a whole bunch of rugby players and Olympians, and even Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom, of course).
And I couldn’t be prouder of my mates who have joined in.
The best thing is, I’m seeing really unexpected guys show their support for this campaign. Male friends who are farmers, tradies, professional athletes, businessmen. To be honest, they are the kind of guys I would expect to roll their eyes at such openly emotive posts. But they’ve thrown their full muscly weight behind it, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
Whether they themselves have felt uneasy talking about their mental health, or they have a mate who is suffering in silence, or they just feel that it’s an important message, I don’t know. But with Australia’s high male suicide rate (of the 2864 suicide deaths in 2014, approximately 75% were men), having men on social media openly supporting mental health discussion is bloody wonderful.
Not only that, but the comments on every photo of support seem to be equally as positive. I don’t see any sarcastic comments from other guys, calling each other out for being ‘flogs’ or ‘weak’ or ‘soft’. I see unconditional support, pats on the back, and consistent approval.
I only hope it is as reassuring to other men, particularly those who are quietly suffering, as it is to me. Maybe they’ll even see a particular friend show their support on Facebook, and decide that that will be the guy they call for a chat.
The viral campaign was started by 26-year-old Irish rugby player, Luke Ambler, who lost his brother-in-law to suicide in April. “He was at our house on Saturday having a laugh and a joke, he played football as usual on Sunday before spending time with the family and then on Monday night, he killed himself with no explanation.”
“Sometimes men don’t want to talk as they feel ridiculed or think that they’re putting a burden on their families. Then if you try talk about it with the lads, it ends up being turned into banter.”
Luke started Andy’s Man Club in his hometown of Halifax, a group where men can go to be with other like-minded men and talk about everything from exercise to debt management to children. It was only a little over a week ago that Luke shared his campaign online, which quickly went viral.
There will always be those who question the point of viral ‘awareness’ campaigns, but as we saw recently with the scientific breakthrough funded by the ice-bucket challenge, they can make an incredible difference.
In this campaign, I can’t see a flaw. I’m too busy sending mental high-fives to all the guys taking off their bravado for a minute, just to let their mates know it’s okay to talk.
Good work, fellas. Keep talking.
Image via Facebook.