Think About It With Tivania Moodley: Redefining the male stereotype
157 days ago
October is Mental Health Awareness month, and I want to speak about an issue we’re still skirting around, even in this era – depression among men.
We have to just consider the deaths of Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain or South African Professor, Bongani Mayosi; to realise that suicide among men are on the rise, not counting the everyday incidents that don’t reach the media.
So why are men suffering in silence?
I don’t advocate being a specialist on the subject and my opinion is exactly that, which is based on my experiences and own research. I have unashamedly shared my own journey with depression and my failed suicide attempt four years ago, which culminated in my autobiography, Girl on Fire.
My countless conversations and observations with men have led me to believe that there is a fundamental role that society plays which exacerbate the depression men feel, and which they cannot talk about for fear of shame and judgment.
We’ve been raised in a society which teaches us that vulnerability is a weakness. Even more damaging is the belief that “real men don’t cry”. As a result, boys are taught to suppress their emotions and not speak about their fears or pain. In a quest to maintain the status quo, young boys negate their emotions and become very angry men. And what I know for sure is: truth – if not expressed verbally – comes out sideways, through depression, addiction or rage. Depression is sinister. It takes no prisoners. The only way out, is through, and that involves facing some hard truths.
We need to be teaching our boys the importance of expressing their feelings. We need to teach them that vulnerability is a sign of immense strength, because the most vulnerable among us, are the bravest ones who show up for life, who allow their true selves to be seen. We need to teach our boys that there are no predefined rules to follow, where boys are meant to be one way and girls another. We have to embrace our boys with whatever qualities they possess, and not mould them into our ideals. We have to stop placing unnecessary pressure on them to be the head of the home, fanatical about sport or champions in the workplace. We need to give them permission to be who they truly are, without judgment. But more than that, is giving them the space to express fear, pain or sorrow without considering them to be less than.
This is how healing begins.