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The Hidden Epidemic in the Pandemic

Something I've been observing recently that I want to put voice to is a secondary epidemic as a result of the pandemic. The mental health of men.

Quieter than normal, working too hard, drinking; they may not always use words but I understand their silences, big sighs, hunched shoulders and stoic faces perfectly.

Us women, we talk. We go for walks, meet friends, have a good cry and eat way too much comfort food.

The main thing for us is that societal norms, in the UK, allow us at least a degree of being emotional and vulnerable. I'm not sure we're quite there for the fellas, yet.

For guys, their main sources of masculine support; sports, the pub, work-related socialising - they've been off limits or curtailed for over a year now. Then there's the fact that they're often seen as the providers and the protectors; and yet despite their best efforts Covid still looms. Many have lost their job or the constant threat of unemployment beckons. And if they're not affected directly, the people around them are, and it's even more difficult when it's outside of your control.

The greatest cause of death to a guy under 40 is suicide, with guys three times more likely than women to take their own life (Office of National Statistics).

These are sobering statistics that I know we all need to pay attention to.

So what can we do?

Well, first of all, we need to normalise guys as human beings with emotions and feelings. Male role models can go a long way here. Seeing that guys can be emotional and still be a husband, top business executive, sportsman or accepted member of the community dispels the myth that being emotional is weak. We need to dispense with the tough guy image, and replace it with the honest, authentic guy image - because I promise you, being ok with your emotions is "tough", us ladies know that.

Secondly, ladies, we need to play our part! We need to stop pigeon holing guys into a narrow stereotype. I know they can sometimes feel like a different species, but underneath it all, they are complicated and diverse, just like us. Sit your dad's, brother's, son's, male friend's, neighbours, work colleagues down and non-judgmentally ask them how they are. Don't expect them to reply expertly. They may not want to reply at all. Still hold a space that let's them reply with full honesty. That means listening, until they are done.

It's not a cure all, but it is a start.

Fellas it's not always appropriate to tell you we love you (other women can get a bit sniffy about that!), but we do. You light up our world's. You make us laugh. You help us understand what it means to be female and we appreciate your contribution.

You are not your job title, or the amount of money you bring home. You are still you, no matter your circumstances.

I'm not an expert on any of this, but none of us need to be to offer a grass roots approach. Ladies, I am confident the gestures won't go unnoticed. Remember how us stepping up in the First World War led to greater equality and us getting the vote? I see us having similar opportunities now if we're willing to rise up and play out our our potential.

Depression and anxiety are serious illnesses, fatal in some cases. It's time we paid attention and did something, anything.

Do what you can.

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