This year's theme is about appropriate male role models for men and boys and changing what it means to be a "real man".
Men face a unique challenge with their mental health – the perceived expectations that they be "real men" and conform to traditional masculine norms, being tough, not showing emotion, being a bread winner etc.
Men who internalise such norms are stripped of their right to be vulnerable, causing shame and guilt about experiencing negative emotions during times of hardship. This negatively affects men's mental health, increasing the likelihood of depression and associated suicidality and substance abuse. This shame and guilt often has drastic and violent consequences for men's relationships with friends, family and partners. Research has shown men who internalise traditional masculine stereotypes are more likely to feel the need to control their partners, be perpetrators of domestic violence and have increased anger and hostility. References at bottom of post. Here's a link to a quick 2 minute video which briefly talks about some of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdRrjCOqzZY
So how do we change, what's the alternative? Can we redefine what it is to be a "real man"?
We've learnt these unhelpful norms at an early age from our society and in part, from our role-models who demonstrate behaviours we are taught to value. Every time a father tells a young boy to 'man up', "suck it up" or "grow some balls" we're teaching boys to stop feeling, to bottle up and stop expressing emotions. These behaviours inform children's views about what is and isn't accepted or valued. Chances are if you're a man in your 20's or older you heard many of these sayings and their associated ideals and may have internalised them.
I wonder though, what's "manlier", hiding behind a tough masculine guise refusing to feel any emotion except anger for fear of being denigrated? Or, challenging these norms and daring to be vulnerable despite the judgement and stigma? I say the latter.
Men who are brave enough to challenge these norms and be vulnerable are the appropriate the male role models International Men's Day is looking for. A good example of this is Osher Gunsberg (the host of The Bachelorette), who talks openly about this mental illness, suicidal ideation and substance abuse to dismantle stigma and normalise mental health issues. Here's a link to an interview he's done talking about his story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=y3qQF99_IAQ&feature=emb_logo