Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, taking place every November, is crucial for shedding light on the mental health crisis in men today.
A survey by Priory of 1,000 men in the UK showed that 77% of men have suffered with common mental health symptoms like anxiety, stress or depression. 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health. 29% of those who haven't done so, say they are "too embarrassed" to speak about it, while 20% say there is a "negative stigma" on the issue.
Societal expectations and traditional gender norms often discourage men from expressing vulnerability or seeking help for mental health issues, preventing them from acknowledging and addressing their struggles.
Promoting awareness of men's mental health issues helps break down stereotypes about masculinity that may contribute to the suppression of emotions. Men, like anyone else, experience a range of emotions, and it's important for them to feel comfortable expressing and addressing their mental health concerns.
Engaging in raising awareness can contribute to early intervention and prevention of mental health issues. By fostering an environment where men feel encouraged to talk about their mental health, we can identify and address problems early on.
Men's Mental Health Awareness Month is a beacon, guiding us towards challenging stigmas, encouraging open conversations, and fostering environments that prioritise positive, healthy and productive conversations about men's mental health.
In this blog post we'll delve into the critical issue of boys' mental health in schools, exploring the unique challenges they face and discovering what teachers and leaders can do to promote a culture of emotional resilience and support.
Understanding Men's Mental Health Awareness Month
Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual observance in November, is a concerted effort to shine a light on the mental health challenges that men encounter. It serves as a platform to encourage a broader dialogue around emotional well-being and dispel the stereotypes that shroud masculinity and mental health. The overarching goal is to foster an inclusive understanding that mental health struggles know no gender boundaries.
The Importance of Addressing Men's Mental Health in Schools
Schools, as crucibles of character and learning, play a pivotal role in shaping the minds of the future. It is essential to recognise that boys, just like their female counterparts, can grapple with a myriad of mental health issues. However, societal expectations and entrenched notions of masculinity often dissuade boys from expressing their emotions openly. This suppression can have profound and lasting consequences, impacting academic performance, interpersonal relationships, and overall quality of life. We explain the effect mental health stigma has on men in an earlier blog post.
Navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence comes with its unique set of challenges for boys. From societal pressures to conform to rigid stereotypes to the fear of being perceived as vulnerable, these challenges can create a breeding ground for mental health issues. By addressing boys' mental health in schools, we not only acknowledge the struggles they face but also pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Furthermore, social media influencers who perform overt masculinity such as Andrew Tate fuel an idea for their younger followers that this image of strength and dominance is how you become a man. It feeds into the harmful mantra of "Boys don't cry" which perpetuates this whole cycle.
There is a real fear among boys and young men of looking weak, and o not not being in control. Only a month ago a 17-year-old boy stabbed 15-year-old Elianne Andam to death on their way to school after she rejected a bouquet of roses from him. Boys are currently not being given the tools to understand their masculinity and its impact on their mental health, and often societal messaging and social media only muddies these waters even further
Promoting Good Mental Health in Schools
Education and Awareness:
Schools should be taking a proactive approach by integrating mental health education into their curriculum. Emphasising the importance of emotional well-being from an early age helps destigmatize mental health discussions. Workshops and classroom discussions can play a pivotal role in breaking down stereotypes and normalising the concept of seeking help.
Voicebox's practice centres around practical exploration, where participants are actively involved in conversations on difficult topics, whether that's through team games, debates or role playing real-life scenarios. Learn more about what happens in a Voicebox workshop here
Creating Safe Spaces:
Establishing safe spaces within the school environment is paramount. These spaces should be designed to make boys feel comfortable expressing their feelings without fear of judgement. Whether it's through designated counselling offices, peer support groups, or incorporating mindfulness practices into the daily routine, creating safe spaces is crucial.
Educators are key influencers in students' lives. Providing teachers with training on recognising signs of mental distress, fostering empathy, and implementing supportive strategies can significantly contribute to a positive school environment. Teachers armed with the knowledge and tools to address mental health concerns can act as mentors and guides for their students.
Encouraging Open Communication:
Schools should actively encourage open communication about mental health. This could involve incorporating mental health check-ins as part of regular classroom activities, allowing students to share their experiences and feelings in a supportive setting. By making these discussions a normalised part of the school environment, the stigma surrounding mental health can be further dismantled.
Inclusive policies that address the unique needs of boys in terms of mental health are essential. Inclusive policies could involve:
Challenging traditional masculine stereotypes about dominance, self reliance, and emotional suppression.
Tools for how to engage with positive and healthy masculinity.
Information about gender stereotypes: what they are, where they come from, and how they can serve/ not serve us.
By creating an environment that celebrates diversity in emotional expression, schools can foster a sense of belonging and acceptance where everyone feels safe to be themselves.
Men's Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a poignant reminder that the journey toward mental well-being is a collective effort. By addressing boys' mental health in schools, we not only break down harmful stereotypes but also empower future generations with the tools to navigate life's challenges. It's time to foster environments that cultivate emotional resilience, compassion, and open communication, creating a world where everyone's mental health is valued and prioritised.
In the spirit of this awareness month, let us commit to fostering a culture where boys and men feel seen, heard, and supported in their mental health journeys. Through education, awareness, and compassionate action, we can contribute to a future where mental well-being is a shared priority, breaking the silence and nurturing the emotional health of boys in schools and beyond.
Want to continue the conversation on boys and mental health?
On 30 November from 4.30pm - 6.30pm, we're hosting a free online panel discussion: Boys & Mental Health: What can schools do?.
Our panel of industry professionals in mental health, student wellbeing and gender studies will explore both the current problems and solutions to the mental health crisis with boys and young men in schools today.
Featuring Stuart Davenport ( Christopher Filbey (Pupil Welfare & Wellbeing, Epsom College) and Will Hudson (Masculinity Workshop Leader, PhD Researcher, Trainee Therapist).
This free event is for teachers, facilitators, youth group leaders and anyone passionate about promoting mental health in boys and young men.
Our Healthy Masculinity workshop is part of Voicebox's core workshop programme, covering everything from: how unhealthy masculinity can manifest itself in suppressing emotions and fearing vulnerability, to practical explorations of ways of doing healthy masculinity.
If you're interested in booking one of Voicebox's workshops or assemblies, you can fill out a booking form here.
If you have a question or would like to chat through something with one of the team, you can book a free consultation here.