You may think that expressing our feelings and sharing the highs and lows of the week with your circle of close friends comes naturally.
It’s imperative to establish good connections with loved ones, and one could assume that being a sound board for others forms the basis of a solid friendship.
However, this doesn’t come naturally for men. Historically, society has told us to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’, and for a man to show any feelings is a sign of weakness. On the contrary, revealing your vulnerability can be one of the strongest and most courageous things you can do.
My name is Tommy Hatto, the founder of Tommy Hatto Online, a consultancy company that specialises in transforming the wellbeing culture with organisations and schools, with an output to ensure everyone is listened to and supported, with a specific focus on men’s wellbeing.
In recent years, International Men’s Day – which is celebrated on November 19th, has become more poignant in highlighting the issues men face regarding their mental health and wellbeing.
Why don’t men talk about their wellbeing?
Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, and 90% of these cases can be attributed to mental health struggles. Depression, anxiety, body image issues can be very isolating. So, why are men so reluctant to open up about their mental wellbeing?
For years, it has been ingrained into us, that men are the protectors of the household, we need to put a brave face on and stay strong for the sake of the family. In business, we’ve been exposed to the notion that vulnerability equals poor leadership and less authority. These old patriarchal habits die hard. There’s also a fear of being judged: judged by our spouses, our friends, our work colleagues, and a fear of those relationship dynamics changing negatively. Of course, this isn’t the case.
What role can women play in supporting men?
Give permission to be vulnerable. Whether that’s at home or in work, ensure you’ve overtly communicated that the door is always open for them. Letting the men in your lives know that you’ve created a safe, protected, and non-judgemental space doesn’t push them to open up (which has the opposite effect) but gives them the comfort knowing that you’ve allowed them to.
Listen. Sometimes, we don’t want to have a conversation with someone, we just want to express the thoughts in our heads. In that moment, the best thing you can do is actively listen. The men and boys will realise that opening up actually isn’t such a scary thing after all.
Consider context and language. It’s so easy to get caught up into a culture of ‘lad talk’ or ‘banter’ but sometimes, these can have lasting effects on men. An example I have frequently witnessed is joking about a man’s height or hair. On the surface, it may be light-hearted, but these insecurities can manifest themselves into bigger issues. It’s important to provide some validation if you do notice any signs that look off-character.
Showcase role models. A powerful tool in helping to widen the conversation is by letting them know they are not alone, and that there are male role models out there who are normalising these conversations. In business, get external speakers in to share their stories. The feedback I’ve received from organisations when I go in to do talks is that their male colleagues are thankful that they feel represented.
About the author
Tommy Hatto is an award-winning wellbeing coach, motivational speaker, actor, model, and founder of Tommy Hatto Online – a wellbeing coaching and consultancy company.
With a combined social media presence of over 100,000 followers and winning the Mental Health Blog Award for Social Media Champion in 2022, Tommy hopes to use his platforms to engage with individuals and businesses to share his story that being ‘perfect’ isn’t all it’s perceived to be.