One man who participated in the awareness week was men’s group coordinator Kenny D’Cruz. Kenny developed mental health problems after travelling to Britain as a refugee from Uganda.
When his father was declared an enemy of the state, he, his younger brother and his mother flew to Britain while his father had to be smuggled out of the country. His father’s parting words at the airport were ‘You are the head of the family now, you must look after your brother and mother.’
For a young child that is an impossible demand, and one which Kenny carried around for months as they made their way through a series of refugee detention centres, wondering if they’d ever see their husband and father again.
Nine months later, their father made it to safety but the children were already showing signs of prolonged emotional trauma. Life went on but money was tight and Kenny exerted so much energy trying to keep his parents and brother clean, fed and healthy that his anxiety manifested as OCD – paving the way for a lifetime’s struggle with mental health problems.
Kenny’s story highlights the pressure all too often put on young boys to ‘man up’. Research shows boys are socialised in a different way to girls. Male infants who show sadness and anxiety tend to be reprimanded, while displays of anger and aggression are seen as more acceptable. The opposite is true for girls. This sets in place a behavioural pattern that continues throughout adulthood and makes men more inclined to take solitary, drastic steps to manage their problems as opposed to talking with friends or seeking help.
While men are generally no more likely to suffer mental health problems than women, it is thought that they are less likely to seek help.
Discussions last week gave organisation Men’s Minds Matter a chance to talk about their idea for a Men’s Institute. By creating support networks for men within communities, they hope to reduce isolation and help men cope with the demands of modern living.
Whoever you are, whatever sex you happen to be – talking about how you feel is often the way out. You can use this directory to find out more about mental health problems and how to contact a counsellor. Please visit our Types of Distress page for more information.
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