Big Conversation is a monthly event run by Elephant in the Room, the QMU’s mental health campaign. Each month, they meet to have a conversation about an aspect of mental health and how this affects students. It’s a place free of judgement, offering students a chance to chat about how they are feeling and how they can help others at university. This month’s topic was men’s mental health and so qmunicate have recapped some of the main questions and points that were raised.
Is it not okay for men to show any form of anger or sadness?
– It’s not just sadness or anger, even happiness or excitement is perceived negatively.
– Showing excitement about something is not traditionally considered to be very “masculine”. It’s seen as inappropriate or feminine.
– While millennials might try to come to terms with our own emotions, we’ve been conditioned from a young age that doing so is not okay. We feel almost suppressed by Gen X (there were a lot of times that the contrast between generations came up!)
Any other thoughts about how the older generation might feel about men’s mental health?
– This is something which is usually dismissed and seen as a weakness.
– This problem of suppressing emotions, or being encouraged to suppress them, is likely a generational problem.
– It’s interesting to see how this will shift with the recent phenomenon of not really having traditional familial/gender roles.
– Different people define “masculine” and “masculinity” differently!
Expand a little on toxic masculinity?
– I think that term gets overused, “toxic” masculinity refers to a very specific culture.
– People tend to use this even to describe simply being loud or confident.
– It perpetuates the idea that anyone choosing to identify with anything masculine must be “toxic”.
– It can feel like we [men] aren’t even allowed to have a voice.
– Sharing experiences of assault can be invalidating because of the preconception that men cannot be assaulted.
How can we challenge preconceptions in society?
– I think there’s not much we can do except work towards our goal without losing focus, while also challenging ideas.
– Remember to not just challenge other people’s preconceptions, but also your own!
What do you think about the discussion of men’s mental health in a family setting?
– Sometimes it’s easier to talk to people in the same boat as you such as your friends as there’s an aspect of equality among friends; with family, it may be awkward or embarrassing.
– Equally, sometimes it’s better to talk to your parents as they may have the benefit of hindsight.
What do you think about the male role models out there?
– Even when they showed emotion, it was very rare.
– With men maturing slower at school, sometimes they get judged for having out of the ordinary interests.
– There are very specific things men are expected to bond over, and this leads to some men taking up interests they don’t necessarily have or want.
– It’s like men get condemned for whatever reason: if their interests are too masculine they are toxic, otherwise they’re not masculine enough, or subject to homophobic comments that may not even reflect on their sexuality.
– Ultimately, there aren’t many outlets [especially for men] to talk about such things and many people would really appreciate such a session again in the future!
Join the Big Conversation with the next session, focusing on LGBTQ+ mental health. This is on the 21st November, 3-5pm, in QMU Meeting Room 4.
If you wish to attend this, please keep an eye on the Elephant in the Room’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for reminders. It would be lovely to see you all there for a nice, open chat about these things.