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Manning up: a problem not a solution

Jasmin Priya responds to the toxic mantra of manning up and looks at why it's a dangerous approach to mental health.

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Image: Pixabay

Quick trigger warning before you read this article: It deals with mental health issues and may stir up some intentionally repressed feelings. I know it did for me when I was writing this.

“34 million UK adults are mentally ill? What utter nonsense. Man up, Britain & focus on those who really need help,” tweeted Piers Morgan on the 10th of May 2017.

During Mental Health Awareness week, Piers decided to join the conversation with just 140 characters. Fabulous. There are so many things wrong with this entire statement. I am one of the 34 million adults who are mentally ill, and I’m surprised this number isn’t higher. The only thing that is “utter nonsense” (other than Piers Morgan’s entire existence) is this belief that these adults are not amongst the group of people who “really need help”. These people who must endure so much whilst the media and popular culture misrepresents their struggles. For example, schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses; sufferers are portrayed as crazy, having split personality disorder, hearing voices, violent criminals.

Succumbing to hegemonic masculinity is not the answer

I think as students, the idea that one should “get over it, everyone is in the same boat” is our natural response to any problem. Exam stress? No money? One too many all-nighters exhausting you to the point that the words “regular sleep schedule” seem like a distant memory or an idealist dream? Well, get over it, it’ll get better, man up. Yet we don’t just have to deal with academic stressors, but also the looming monstrosity that is the future. The economy is in a perpetual state of turmoil. Tuition fees are rising with inflation. Brexit. Theresa May. How can we tell these people who have so much burden on their shoulders to “man up”? Not ignoring that these two words “man up” represent a sexist, socially-defined concept of hyper-masculinity that men must adhere to, emotional repression does not solve mental health problems; rather it causes or aggravates them. Some people, no matter what gender they identify as, were born with thinner skin. Succumbing to hegemonic masculinity is not the answer.

Never be afraid to ask for help

Neither 140 characters nor 500 words is enough to fully address this issue, so my advice for now? When it comes to Piers Morgan and other such individuals, ignore their ignorance. They are not worth your thoughts or time. Yes, there are other people who think like Piers Morgan, but at the end of the day, they are wrong. If you need help, call the Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org). If you need answers, the Mind charity has plenty (www.mind.org.uk) including a very useful list of types of mental health problems with descriptions, which you should look at if someone you care about has been diagnosed with one of them. The Wellbeing services at the University of Exeter are fantastic, although they require a little patience. Talk to a GP if you are especially worried.

Above all, never, ever be afraid to ask for help. Ever. You deserve it.

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