Mental Health? Man Up

Author: Sam Underwood

Picture: Geralt, Pixabay

Mental Health? Man Up

“Man up.”

If you are like me, you will probably have heard this before. What does it even mean, though? Be strong? Be tough? Keep quiet?

My journey has had serious ups and downs and my passion for mental health has risen out of my own struggles with depression and anxiety over many years.

I now work in mental health and am chasing the calling I believe God has placed on my life: to support and empower the most vulnerable people in our society.

I once put my emotions in a separate box and avoided sharing them at all costs. Now I see that we need to release them into the open and encourage our friends and brothers to do the same.

Among men under 45, suicide is in the top three leading causes of death. All too often, I meet men who struggle to live under the weight of stress, depression and the pressure to remain permanently stoic.

Inspiring Men

When we read of Jesus weeping over the death of his close friend Lazarus (John 11:35), we know he is not simply being soft. Why, then, do we hold ourselves to a different, unattainable standard?

I want to look now at three inspiring men who are challenging the perception that vulnerability equals weakness. They are empowering men everywhere to feel comfortable sharing their mental health experiences and emotions with those whom they trust.

As a huge football fan, the England teams of the 2000s were my heroes. Rio Ferdinand was the backbone of the defence. A no-nonsense, straight-talking guy, Rio seemed to embody everything a real man should be.

In a recent BBC documentary, Being Mum and Dad, Rio opened up about the death of his wife in 2015. It was inspiring to see Rio throw his ‘tough guy’ image out of the window and be totally authentic.

It took enormous courage and strength to allow everyone to see his raw pain and the challenges of raising his three children alone. You can watch a clip from the prgramme below.


Bravery and Vulnerability

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Prince Harry opened up about his painful past, describing the loss of his mother aged 12 in the spotlight as “total chaos”. He also felt he had to shut down his emotions to deal with his experiences and has only recently sought professional support.

In opening up, he has opened the door for men everywhere to say: “If he can do it, so can I.”

Prince Harry demonstrates that bravery and vulnerability go hand in hand.

A recent campaign in Australia, ‘Man Up’, captured this message perfectly. Radio presenter Gus Worland toured the country to discover the true meaning of masculinity and strength after losing a close friend to suicide.

Gus wanted to understand what drove his friend to the lowest point and to encourage men to show strength through vulnerability.

"I've Got a Problem"

In an emotional and heart-wrenching journey, he met a range of strong men, from construction workers to counsellors and cattle farmers. His conclusion was simple but profound:

“If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, it’s that the manly thing to do is put your hand up and say ‘ I’ve got a problem.’ ”

Jesus can inspire us, the same Jesus who was not afraid to weep at his friend’s death, or to openly display his wounds to his friends after his resurrection. We can come to him with our burdens, knowing that He understands and cares for us.

It is time for all of us men, with God’s grace, and the support of the amazing women in our lives, to man up and speak up about mental health.

  • Sam Underwood, 21, is from Plymouth and recently completed a degree in mental health nursing.

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