Men’s Health Week: Northampton mental health campaigner urges men not to ‘suffer in silence’

The mental health champion is frustrated that it is still a taboo subject among men

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 7:45 am

During Men’s Health Week, Northampton mental health advocate, Joe Plumb, has written a column for Chronicle & Echo about his experiences, encouraging men to speak out and ask for help.

Sunday (June 13) marked the start of ‘Men’s Health Week’.

Like any other awareness week, this is to raise awareness and open up conversations about men’s health.

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Joe Plumb.
Joe Plumb.

I think it’s especially important that we highlight men’s mental health and wellbeing.

From a young age, I was different to most of the other kids.

Although I’m low on the autistic spectrum, my autism was very noticeable and all throughout my life I have struggled with this alongside my other diagnosis’.

Growing up, it was extremely noticeable how none of the other males spoke about mental health or their struggles, but women were more open and spoke quite freely without much judgement from other females.

Then when I was in and out of the adolescent psychiatric units, 95 percent of those were females.

What is still apparent even to this day is the stigma and male toxicity around men speaking about their mental health or mental illness and seeking help.

It’s seen as ‘making you less of a man’ if you do and the ‘Man Up’ culture means so many men are suffering in silence and unfortunately, this leads to suicides.

Suicide is the biggest cause of death amongst men under the age of 50.

The latest UK suicide figures show that on average just under 6,000 people take their own lives every year. Three-quarters of them are men.

Now this figure has increased year-on-year and still, it’s not something which is spoken

about and is still a ‘taboo’ subject.

Why so many men?

Deprivation is a major factor in male suicide, increasing the odds of taking your life by ten times, compared with the suicide risk of more affluent men.

Something called the ‘gold standard’ of masculinity puts pressure on men.

It’s a persuasive little voice that whispers, ‘you’ve failed’ – unless you have gone out and secured that job, that house, that car, that relationship, those children and that sunny family life.

From the age of 13 when I started my work, I knew that being a man that struggles with

mental illnesses and body image, it is so important that I talk openly about how I feel, in the

hope that other men will do the same.

I took numerous attempts at my life because I felt stuck in a bubble and a failure because I wasn’t what a typical man should be, and I felt no sense of worth, but men can have depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, problems with self image, eating disorders and men can cry.

It’s crucial that as a society, we stamp out this ‘Man Up’ culture and male toxicity. It is taking

lives and it needs to stop.

Speaking up, crying and seeking help, whatever it may be, does not make you any less of a

man and it is not at all weak!

I cry, I breakdown, I have problems with eating and self-image, I have anxiety and I’m not

ashamed and I will not let anybody tell me I’m weak or push me to a point of feeling

suicidal.

I’m human and no matter who you are, it can affect anyone.

Lads, don’t suffer in silence!

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.