Let’s Get Men Talking

by Araminta Sheridan

Suicide is the biggest killer of men ages 25-49, and over 70% of those who commit suicide are men. With the psychological effects surrounding coronavirus pandemic, male suicide rates have hit a two-decade high in England and Wales alone.  

We live in a world where the fight for equality, inclusivity and diversity is stronger than ever – it has taken too long for these movements and discussions to take place but finally they are here and it is exciting to see. Male behaviour has been placed under a microscope as the hashtag ‘toxic masculinity’ has even used 123,640 times on Instagram and continues to be used multiple times a day on Twitter. Whilst it is clear from these conversations that minority groups are not happy with toxic behaviours associated with masculinity, it is clear from suicide rates that men are not hugely benefiting from the expectations and values places on them either.  

In recent years, I have had private, in depth discussions with men who feel deeply embarrassed by behaviours associated with masculinity. The male role has changed, but the narrative surrounding ‘masculinity’ has not. The expectation of ‘strong and silent’, ‘stiff upper lip’, and ‘keep quiet and move forward’ seemed to stunt crucial conversations needed to rediscover a newer, healthier male mindset.

Those that were brave enough to reach out for help risked being met with sexist, stunting preconceptions; incorrect ideas including ‘men don’t get bulimia’- 1 in 4 people with bulimia are in fact men.   Let’s Get Men Talking is my small contribution towards a solution.  

What is Let’s Get Men Talking?   Let’s Get Men Talking is a conversation mainly hosted on Instagram that invites men to lead by example to normalise open and honest conversation. Men who participate publicly write captions that educate others around the benefits of reaching out for help, some share their stories, some offer a listening ear, others reinforce their support of vulnerability in men. Each week, I host a livestream to have conversations with men who are using their social media accounts to promote complimentary ideas – Mental Health support for Dads, ideas around ‘manning down’, mental fitness, conversational clothing and more.   Very little of the actual content is created by me, it is created by the men who follow and support the account.   The results have been unimaginable, with daily messages of support, solutions for others and reassurance that this movement is much needed. We are by no means forcing people to talk, but we must create a world where the option is there for those who need and want it.  

We are told as children ‘big boys don’t cry’ – in order to save lives, we need big boys to cry.   Conversations with family and friends, around the dinner table, shape how our country thinks and behaves. As digital technology rapidly descended on us, people believe that we lost the ability to truly connect. For many, this pandemic has forced people to sit back down and share opinions, or to watch the nightly news together and talk about what is going on in weeks zoom calls with colleagues and family.

During this time, I have seen the organic growth of Let’s Get Men Talking increase massively. The public posts to the feed and the 1:1 conversations held on direct message are continuous with men ready to lead by example and others ready to test ideas of engaging in vulnerable conversation. We also have women engage in these conversations, supporting men and learning to empathise with their position. This to me is proof that now is the time for this much needed movement – now is the time to get men talking.  

Let’s Get Men Talking was started by Araminta Sheridan in 2018 to address the narrative surrounding masculinity. The aim was to enable at least one person to reach out for help no matter how big or small their challenge. Now, as a community of over 2,500 people, we work to support those with day-to-day stresses, through to mental illness, through to suicidal thoughts. Watch this space for her upcoming podcast!

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