'Just Man Up' - the stigma of silence is killing us By Jemal Polson | @JemalPolson Over three quarters of those who died by suicide in 2012, while suffering from depression and related illnesses, were men. It’s the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK, claiming lives of more young men than cancer. The figures are shocking, yet I believe that the numbers wouldn’t be so high if we as men didn’t silence ourselves as much as we do – which is partly due to textbook ideas of masculinity. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts on and off for my entire adult life. The degree has varied since the age of 18, but has increased considerably since I graduated from university and returned home at the age of 22. Now, three years later I am currently dealing with my most severe bout thus far. Although I was only diagnosed in May this year, a previous boyfriend – in addition to both of my parents – believed that I had been suffering from some sort of depression for years. However, it was something that I was in denial about, thinking that my dark moods were something that I could ‘snap out of’. Those moods have also been met this year with anxiety attacks, which I had never previously experienced. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what depression actually is and how it works. Many believe it to be an extreme case of sadness or not having the motivation to get out of bed in the morning. It can be so much more than that. My doctor explained to me that depression works on a scale from mild to moderate and severe, with the individual placing somewhere on the scale. I have a great group of friends and my previous partner and I are still very close. He’s actually been a great support system and a great help with getting me to a stage in which I feel comfortable talking about my feelings, which for one reason or another, I’ve found incredibly difficult in adulthood. We all carry around different ideas of what masculinity is or what it means to ‘be a man’. However, some of the most common notions include being physically and/or emotionally strong and not talking about what bothers us. So many of us are taught not to show our emotions from a young age or to ‘man up’, which can have detrimental effects on how we interact with others along with our mental health. ‘Manning up’ is a synonymous with veiling your emotions, and it means that we don’t express how we feel as much as our female counterparts. For me, dealing with problems on my own is how I prove to myself that I can truly be a fully functioning adult. But not telling others about how I feel has actually done more harm than good. I believed that it was better to conceal my thoughts instead of verbalise them, not only to ‘be an adult’ but also for the fear of not being taken seriously or my feelings being trivialised. What I’ve realised is, if I had been honest about my feelings years ago, I‘d be in a better position today. I’m currently seeking treatment which has been a result of constant suggestion from my parents and those closest to me. I’ve joined the online mental health service, the Big White Wall, which takes an approach towards treatment unlike anything I’ve previously experienced. I’m currently unsure as to how long it will take to get to a stable frame of mind, but I know that I’m on track. I’m not saying that I don’t still have bad days, but they are becoming fewer and further between. I can understand that it can be embarrassing for so many men to come forward and say that they suffer from depression – but it needn’t be. If it wasn’t for opening my mouth in the first place, I would undoubtedly be a worse position. I urge those who are feeling similarly to talk about it. If not to a loved one than at least to a doctor – it’s only going to change your life for the better. Support Mind Out, the LGBTQ+ mental health service, offers a variety of support via its website. If you’d prefer to speak to an LGBTQ+ person on the phone, then Switchboard’s volunteers are also there to listen on its dedicated helpline. Extra Reading Mind, the mental health charity, has an excellent online information about depression and its effects. They have also produced this handy summary about LGBTQ+ mental health.