Big Brain Energy: The importance of International Men’s Day and encouraging men to speak up

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International Men’s Day was celebrated on Nov. 19 around the world. Men are encouraged to speak up on mental health, promote positive male role models and highlight discrimination against men.  Photo by    Melany Rochester    on    Unsplash

International Men’s Day was celebrated on Nov. 19 around the world. Men are encouraged to speak up on mental health, promote positive male role models and highlight discrimination against men. Photo by Melany Rochester on Unsplash

Tuesday, Nov. 19 of this year was International Men’s Day. Across the world, individuals cherished the fellow men in their life who lead by example. The day was founded in 1999 by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, a history professor at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad & Tobago, after persistent demands for equal recognition rose during the conception of International Women’s Day years earlier. The six pillars of International Men’s Day are as follows:  

  • To promote positive male role models, including decent, working-class men  

  • To celebrate the contributions of men in society including but not limited to relationships, the environment and the community  

  • To focus on the health and wellbeing of men physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually  

  • To highlight discrimination against men in fields such as social expectations and law 

  • To promote gender equality and foster better relations between genders  

  • To create a better, safer world  

When asked to think of issues such as intimate partner violence, for example, most people immediately think of the woman as the victim in the situation. However, more and more studies are finding that men can be equally subject to these forms of abuse and in some cases may be less apt to tell someone due to societal expectations of how they should react and instead “man up.” 

A recent United Kingdom government survey published on Psychology Today indicated 9% of males experience a form of partner abuse, which translates to around 1.4 million men. The types of abuses outlined are stalking, physical violence and sexual assault. In a recent article in BBC News, a man identified only as John described similar horrors in his relationship, citing fear of being around his significant other and suffering in silence. He only recently turned to a Welsh charity, Calan Domestic Violence Services, to seek help and support. 

“She [John’s partner] was always jealous of other women being attracted to me. She would be nasty to me for days. Then it went to the stage where she was nasty to me all the time, there was no let up at all,” John said. “I couldn’t do anything other than try and hold her off. It was very difficult, you are judged by people like the police as if you were the one who was causing everything.”  

There have been similar forms of emotional and mental abuse that have, in some cases, led to fatal consequences for men who have been abused and stuck in a dark mental place. In the past few years, two women rose to the national spotlight after they convinced their significant others to kill themselves. Michelle Carter, for example, was sentenced to 15 months in jail after encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III to kill himself in a wide array of text messages. Roy died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2017 after he locked himself in his running truck in Massachusetts.

Men also deal with a great amount of stress and shame when it comes to dealing with mental health issues and are often reluctant to reach out. For example, Joshua Beharry, of British Columbia, became the Project Coordinator of HeadsUpGuys, a campaign to support men battling depression, after he attempted to end his own life by jumping off a bridge in Jan. 2010. 

“I didn’t really start out trying to reach men more specifically,” Beharry told the website TalkSpace. “But through my work at HeadsUpGuys I’ve come to realize that a lot of guys go through similar issues and face similar barriers to reaching out as I did.”  

In an article by Michael Formica, EdM, on Psychology Today, Formica explained men who are struggling with their mental health will often act outwardly through anger and agitation as opposed to women, who tend to withdraw and experience feelings of worthlessness. Hence, it can become more difficult for men to reach out when they are already pushing loved ones away.

“Because men are not great at filtering and expressing emotions or feelings, we typically express, or more properly act out, our experience of emotion as anger. The whole male dynamic of emotional experience — feeling, reaction and anger — occurs at a very primal and instinctual level,” Formica said. “Men are, in some ways, hardwired for rage — it keeps us sharp. Problem — there are no more saber-toothed tigers with which to contend; the mechanism is obsolete.” 

Forman added it is important for men to stand together and find their voice in talking about their feelings in a constructive and honest way in order to better themselves mentally and emotionally.  

“In the case of covert depression, emotional success does not rely on the why and how, but more upon what we do next,” Forman said. “Tiger Woods lifting the ball out of the rough and onto the green is a metaphor for men lifting ourselves out of our covert depression by both finding and feeling our feelings.” 

Vivan Kane, a writer for The Mary Sue, said the only reason why International Men’s Day gets a bad reputation is because, on International Women’s Day, some men demand to know why they do not have a special day while subsequently forgetting the purpose of the holiday for women in the first place.

“So yes, many of those men are asking in bad faith and should be treated as such, if not ignored completely,” Kane said in an article. “What shouldn’t be ignored are the issues actual good-faith actors and organizations have put at the center of International Men’s Day — issues like mental health, toxic masculinity, making sure boys have positive male role models and the distressingly high suicide rate among men and boys.” 


Taylor Harton is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.

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