To celebrate Kate reflects on what she's learnt since starting the campaign and why creating a space for men to talk is so important.
Two years ago the Man Up Man Down campaign was launched. After a strong 18 months of research we finally decided to make the jump and publish our Facebook page introducing the world to Man Up Man Down. We’d already collected a large number of blog posts and hosted a discussion with The Freedom Of Mind Festival but, for some reason, we’d been holding back with the actual launch. When we published the page I remember sitting on my bed watching my notifications popping off with shares and likes; it felt like something significant was just beginning.
It’s always been a learning experience. When James and I first met all those years ago neither of us knew what we were doing, but we did know we wanted to create a change. Off The Record supported us throughout the whole research process. They’re an amazing Bristol based youth charity with a open attitude towards empowering young people. Our meetings with them really helped us understand the mental health issues significantly affecting males and what we could do to help.
We started at the heart of the problem and worked backwards. Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, why? Men are also less likely to talk openly about their mental health. Why are men deciding to take their own lives rather than opening up about their mental health?
We believe harmful stigmas prevent men from talking openly about their mental health because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness, why?! Where did this stigma come from and why does it hold so much control over us? Men are killing themselves everyday…
Where are things going wrong?
Well, it starts before we’re even born. It all stems back to how we interpret people’s behaviour based on their gender. As soon as we know the sex of our baby we instantly place them into a gender role.
“Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails, That's what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and all things nice, That's what little girls are made of.”
Have you ever noticed the difference in children's films? Girls watch films with princess's and fairies who are rescued by the courageous prince, but boys watch action heroes who are tough and strong. When a girl cries she gets a hug but when a boy cries he is told, “big boys don’t cry,” and that is one of the most harmful things we could ever say to our sons.
We raise our sons to be ‘strong’ men who don’t cry or show any weakness’s. But the reality is we all have emotions and we all need to talk about them from time to time and that’s ok. If we don’t open up about these things they’ll build up in our heads and eventually all that pressure will become too much.
At Man Up Man Down we create a space for men to talk because we believe it’s how we’re going to save lives. Because talking is just the beginning of creating a healthier state of mind.
I can’t wait to see where the campaign goes. I hope it leads to more workshops, more bloggers and more talking! Here’s to everyone who’s supported Man Up Man Down and here’s to everyone fighting for positive change!