What Does It Mean To Be A Real Man?

My work in the mental health arena has allowed me the opportunity to analyse a number of different aspects of this increasingly important issue, and in particular men’s mental health. One question that crops up time and time again is ‘what do you think makes a real man?’ There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about what makes a real man and when I started to write about this, it seemed to come out as more of a poem or spoken word piece than a blog. I’m delighted to say my words have been made into a short video by men’s mental health charity Brothers In Arms, which I’ll post as soon as I can. In the meantime here are my words on this subject.

‘Real Men’

What does it mean to be a real man?

Real men know how to put their foot down, and throw a punch.

Real men lift weights, watch football, they love a day at the races and a night at the boxing.

Real men build houses, they build roads and the engines that occupy them.

Real men are the life and soul of the party, and have all the best jokes.

Real men have a short back and sides, they love fast cars, expensive suits and have sleeves of tattoos.

Real men had tough upbringings and have all the scars to prove it.

Real men are bread winners, they never complain and never see a doctor.

Real men can drink you under the table.

Real men have all the best chat-up lines.

Real men join the police force, the fire brigade, the military.

Real men are independent, dominant, assertive and never let anyone or anything bother them.

Real men, are killing themselves, every single day.

Real men show emotion, they open up, talk about their feelings and don’t judge others when they do the same.

Real men need an arm around them, more than you know.

Real men get their heart broken, they get nervous, shy, show vulnerability.

Real men suffer from anxiety, stress, panic attacks.

Real men are meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians.

Real men are dancers, hairdressers, flight attendants…nurses.

Real men are from all backgrounds, classes and religions and come in all shapes and sizes.

Real men cry…for as long as it takes.

Real men, are only human.

and real men,

Are missed by those they leave behind.

I’ll ask you again, what does it mean to be a real man?

Thank You Chester

There have been many celebrity deaths in recent years but with the greatest respect to those departed, no loss has hit me as hard as the recent suicide of Chester Bennington.

Sometimes you write articles and you try and use big words, try to sound smarter than you really are and do whatever it takes to impress your peers, but this is one of those times where words are built solely on emotion and everything else just goes out the window.

My own awareness of issues surrounding young men has been heightened dramatically over the past year, and now more than ever the time has come for that awareness to roar throughout society. We can’t just rely on charities and national awareness days to save those in need, we need to be looking at the person sat next to us, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours and sometimes even our heroes.

I’ve always believed that conversations can change lives. For someone in need to know that there is even one person who cares, well that might just make all the difference. At times I feel like I’m on a daily canvass to make men talk, but I’ve realised in the past few days that it’s just as important to listen and to react to what those talking are saying – it can’t just fall on deaf ears.

Why?

Because Chester talked. Chester talked about depression and anxiety and the ‘bad neighbourhood’ that existed between his ears until there was quite literally no more words to be said. In the last few days I must’ve watched a dozen interviews where Chester talks rather eloquently about all of the above and more. He doesn’t sound crazy, he doesn’t sound over the edge, he sounds sad and tired of his plight, but ultimately calm and accepting of what his life had become.

When listening to Chester speak, you begin to understand that his issues aren’t a phase but very much a daily struggle that have existed for many years. He tells of how his only coping mechanisms were to be a good Father, a good Husband, a good friend, a good band-mate and that when he wasn’t being any of those things he was terrified to be left alone in a mind that haunted his very existence. His revelations are deeply concerning, but his openness and his willingness to show a vulnerability to the world is nothing short of inspirational.

It’s so incredibly sad that opening up wasn’t enough to save Chester’s life, but that doesn’t mean it won’t save the life of another. On reflection, I think the nature in which Chester spoke about his issues was potentially quite deceptive to those around him. He spoke with such ease that in a way it gave this illusion that he was in control, that no matter how difficult life was he was getting on with it and that ultimately, he would be okay.

Outside of the world that existed in his head, Chester had a good life. A Father of six, a beautiful wife, founding member of one of the most iconic bands in history, adoring fans stretching to the ends of the earth and a voice that stole many a show. How scary depression must be to leave all of that behind.

Please always talk, please always listen, please look out for one another, please don’t take someone’s “I’m okay” for granted. It’s not that those around Chester didn’t do these things, it’s just a small reminder that this is the bare minimum we can do to help those in need and you just never know who might be in need of saving. I’ve thought a lot about Chester’s performance at Chris Cornell’s funeral, the norm at funerals is to feel sad and realise how lucky we all are that it isn’t us. Think how tormented someone must feel to decide they must be next, it’s time we stop taking this lightly.

He was the voice of an era and I feel heartbroken that another young person has found death to be the only way out. Thank you Chester for blessing us with a voice that could make us not only jump around like maniacs, but swarm us with goosebumps and move us to tears.

Finally at peace, you will be so missed.

PTB