Listen up Men, we don’t talk about our feelings and we are suffering for it.
No, we really don’t talk, well we do but we don’t always talk about what matters to us.
For example, finding happiness for some men (and woman of course) is an everyday battle.
Did you know that in Britain alone, we are facing a mental health epidemic as services fail those who need them the most and more people than ever are falling into crisis.
EVERY two hours in Britain a man takes his own life. That’s 6,000 British men’s lives being lost to suicide every year.
Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and sadly not enough is being done to prevent it.
But I want to do my bit to turn this around.
I want to do a bit of something good, maybe with this article and raise this issue with you.
Maybe you are going through something yourself?
Think about it, when was the last time that you really spoke to someone about how you felt?
When you opened up to your best mate, your partner, family, children, auntie, grandparent?
When was that exactly?
You aren’t alone, Me neither.
Even the thought of talking about my feelings, makes me feel nervous.
Why is that?
Isn’t that a bit well, bonkers?
Well no it isn’t, us men (however in touch with our emotions we are, however much of a great father or husband we might be), we cannot get past the fact that we just cannot open up.
We cannot say what we really feel or if we do it usually dries up after the first line.
I know you know what I’m talking about men.
We cannot talk about our feelings.
We’d rather have our driving test or an exam over and over again than talk about how we really feel.
I consider myself very modern, in the sense of being a 21st-century male. I’m sure many of you reading this are the same.
I think I am an engaged parent, I took time out from my career to care for my young children from babies upwards.
I was fully involved in their care and upbringing and do the shopping, organise the meals, put laundry through, clean the house, and all manner of activities that most men traditionally left to the female in the home to do.
I never wanted that.
Woman wanted equality and so do we.
Right down the middle.
How many of you get cheesed off at the adverts depicting the mother caring for the children, baby food, nappies? When us men, many of us men, do a fantastic job of bringing up baby and our children.
And that’s where there has been a dramatic shift in how we as men have evolved over the past 30-40 years. We have moved forward at an amazing pace.
We are different from men 30, 40, 80 years ago.
We are expected to be more caring, sharing, more emotional, more feminine in many of our lives and parts of our lives.
We are expected to be good dads, do everything the woman has predominately done in the household and more.
Be a model father, brother, son, husband, enjoy cooking and hosting a party, whilst being great at DIY, gardening, cars and having a tight six pack, with a perfect beard to finish the perfect 21st-century male.
Doesn’t make your head hurt just a bit?
We are no longer sexist or chauvinistic.
We no longer leer at women or call them our ‘birds’ or ‘girls’.
And we are sensitive lovers and we are always there to help our children with their homework.
This is right. It is proper and it is by design.
I’m not sure whose design, but we are here in the 21st century with a very different man than we had only a few years ago.
My father in law is a good man, but he must look at me sometimes and wonder if I haven’t got a pair of boobs under my t-shirt. We are so different.
For example, he never changed a nappy for his children in the 1970’s. If I’d had a pair of mammary glands I would have breastfed the kids. I was that involved in caring for them and being there for them. I still am.
When they are ill they come to me to help make them better. Whereas before it would have been the mother and only the mother they went to.
How times have changed.
And this is good. It is progress, it is evolution and it is only going to change more, I’m sure.
Back in 2006 when we had our first child I carried her around everywhere in a front facing sling, I even did the hoovering with it on, when she cried.
Not many men had these, now they all do. I’ve seen 10 in the past week.
I was one of the first to take a day off a week to care for my child, not many men did, now many do, it is becoming the norm. This is fantastic.
All of these changes are amazing, men have a lot to offer as human beings, as emotionally, sensitive, caring, beautiful people. We have demonstrated that through the changes we have made.
But can we talk about our feelings and evolve still further?
Can we frigging hell.
Nope that part of us hasn’t caught up.
Someone forgot to give us that particular emotional, evolutionary upgrade.
We’ve got all the equipment with which to do the job, but someone forgot to charge up the battery.
So we’ve got all this fantastic, amazing new man stuff happening over here, but we have as much emotional intelligence or to be more accurate, the ability to express our emotions, like a caveman.
We are still cave men, living the modern man’s dream.
If we aren’t stuffed up, then I don’t know what is.
And what about our gay brothers?
You’d think they’d be more able to deal with this stuff?
Well although we cannot generalise there, from the gay friends that I have, they are as emotionally able to express themselves as the rest of us.
So basically men have nowhere to go emotionally.
We have something missing and it isn’t looking good, in fact, it is getting worse.
We say “I’m fine” when asked, but clearly we are not.
We have to keep the Status Quo, the stiff upper lip, the solid dependable maleness that means everything will be okay.
On one hand, we are an Uber, sensitive, ‘man around the home’, on the other hand, society expects the ‘solid, strong male’ that will protect them and steer them through all the crap we have to deal with in life.
Did you know that 1 in 4 men will experience a mental health problem this year alone?
1 in 4! That’s a lot of men.
Seven billion people are living on this beautiful planet of ours, and we are more connected than ever.
Social media links us all every day.
We chat, tweet, Facebook, What’s App, Snap Chat and communicate but us men don’t say anything.
We don’t express ourselves.
Men are now more isolated, lonely and miserable than they’ve ever been.
We feel according to recent research (Harry’s masculinity report see the end for link) cut off from others and not able to build meaningful, real relationships.
But if us men cannot change, because quite frankly we don’t know how to, something outside of us needs to help us change, and sort out what we are thinking and feeling to well, stop killing ourselves.
There is hope and as the tile of this article suggests, that hope is in the form of Artificial Intelligence or A.I. For short.
And this hope is both surprising and quite groundbreaking, read on to find out more.
Harry is a company that does those razor blades, you might have seen them in pop up ads online?
Well, they did some research.
They had an A.I. Bot called Harr-E installed on their site and men from all walks of life and ages were asked to participate in talking with this A.I.
Now for those who don’t know A.I. Chatbots have gotten so good recently that us humans can hardly tell if they are human or computer (read my previous article for more information on this).
So, this happened in the UK, men were asked anonymously and freely, about what keeps them awake at night, what worries them, what makes them feel lonely, being a man, masculinity, well-being, and being happy.
Over 2,000 men; doctors, farmers, builders, teachers, lawyers.
From the ages of 18 to 88 came forward and opened and gave us an insight into 21st Century men’s feelings.
Many of the men spoke to this A.I. Bot Harr-E about topics and feelings they’d never spoken to others about, EVER.
But when they spoke with Harr-E they had lots to say. Oh yes, the flood gates opened.
Did you ever see the Friends episode with Rachel and her boyfriend (Bruce Willis), she got him to finally open and he cried for hours. Rachel then complained… “I can’t stop him crying”.
What the research found, that whilst men are in crisis and cannot talk to another human being about it, they want to change, but just don’t know how to.
If tools such as Harr-E can help us men, and I know I’d rather talk to one, than someone else, at first, then isn’t this a start? An outlet for men to get ‘it’ out there.
But what is ‘it’? I dont really know what I want to say.
We (maybe) don’t know what it is that we need to speak about.
Until we start talking about it.
The research stated that loneliness is a big issue. Even though some of the men were in a stable relationship, had friends and social networks, they still felt lonely.
However, those who weren’t in a relationship had overall a much lower satisfaction in their life. Loneliness and poor mental health are a recognised cause of poorer, overall mental health.
What is interesting is that even though men are in relationships or not, they still feel lonely.
The answers from the research were of anger, loneliness and bewilderment. From across the board.
If we are so connected socially, in jobs that are often professional, with families, friends, why do we still feel lonely, what’s happening?
Social media obviously isn’t the answer, and maybe a cause.
There have been many reports that social media can lead to feelings of depression, that we cannot compete with the ‘perfect’ representations of life online.
I’ve got friends who have ‘given up’ Facebook and the like because it ‘depressed them’.
An answer at least a short-term solution it seems, it talking to an A.I. Bot, can at least ease the way.
Of course, I’m not saying A.I. will suddenly make us men feel happier, but what it could be is an outlet, a bridge, a catalyst to get those feelings of loneliness, isolation and despair out there.
It is a way to change what’s inside when we don’t know how to change.
A tool to change, and us men like tools.
Journalist and Harry’s ambassador Martin Daubney said about all of this;
“with 59% of respondents suggesting they’d like to talk further to a bot about their mental health, A.I.-powered services could be the key to unlocking men, historically that most stubborn of demographics, and build a bridge into the real-world care network.
“Rather than patronisingly insist men to ‘talk more’, then blame them when they don’t, the bot has shown that perhaps it’s time to change how – and where – we listen to men.
Rather than expect men to self-present at their GPs and talk face to face, perhaps we need to take the conversation to them, via technology we know they are already comfortable with.”
What Martin is suggesting is that this A.I. Bot is a way to provide a coping strategy, a way to start to talk about our issues, our worries, our fears, without being judged. That’s probably one of the main reasons we don’t speak out.
Fear of being judged.
Fear of being nothing more than perfect or strong, the male, the defender. Not allowed to have weaknesses, because as if we do… we will be eliminated.
I know that sounds extreme, but think about it for a minute.
Why don’t we talk about stuff?
Someone close to me, actually 2 people I know in the past year, have told me that they have been close to suicide in recent times.
So, some men do talk to other men, but I think this is outside the usual and the 2 men had got to that point where they had to seek treatment.
It got pretty bad for them.
So, they had hit rock bottom, I never knew, I suspected but guess what?
We never talked about it.
I didn’t want to go there in fear of opening up something I didn’t want to deal with, and more than likely so did they.
If they had succeeded in taking their own lives, that would’ve been so sad and such a waste. Things are never so bad that they couldn’t be put right.
And that’s another reason to talk, things are never as bad as you think they are in your head. Talking them over with someone you trust, can really help.
But when a person is in that negative, low, depressed state everything seems so dark and without hope.
The invisible barrier.
Yes, that barrier, that invisible brick wall between us men and the other person in the room.
In social work, we call it the ‘elephant in the room’. It is huge. And unless the other person knows that you have something to say and are able to expertly coax those truths and feelings out of you, then they stay hidden.
You know I’m sure most of us don’t even know what we want to get out. What do we want to say?
Sometimes these expressions of feeling come from nowhere. A few years back I lost a few people all at once, through death, not by actually losing them, like my keys or something.
At the end of the year, an hour or so after the last person had died and I’d sat with him and held his hand until the funeral people had come to collect him.
I went home and in front of parents and wife I cried, it wasn’t a few tears, it was like a primaeval roar that came from deep within me.
I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t turn it off.
It was like everything had just built up and like a volcano, I was ready to blow.
The females in the room were very good at dealing with my outpouring which had no real words, just a noise.
The male in the room didn’t know what to do and just looked a bit shocked. If we’d been reversed in roles, I wouldn’t have known what to do either and been a bit embarrassed.
How messed up is that?
I’ve spent the last 18 years in health and social work, getting people to talk, women generally do it better.
Men talk about things in a roundabout way. We are never direct about how we feel and want others to almost read our minds.
Me doing a bit of social work: “So, Mr Jones, you aren’t coping well at home since your wife died, you aren’t eating or drinking enough, you seem to be lonely and are neglecting yourself, what about we get you some support to work with you on getting your life back on track?”
Mr Jones: “well Jeff if you think so, I think I’m doing fine, but I’ll give it a few weeks just to tidy up the place a bit, but only to please my daughter”.
Funnily enough, I’ve noticed that the older men, I’m talking in their 80’s, ’90s seem to soften and become better at talking about their emotions and feelings.
Whereas still even in their 60’s and 70’s they keep up that barrier and pretence of masculinity.
Much, later on, they suddenly let it all go.
Maybe it is a testosterone type of thing?
As the hormones reduce, then the ability to talk about ones’ feelings changes.
That must be very liberating as a male.
If we haven’t killed ourselves or died of a heart attack from keeping all those emotions inside, we suddenly get to Nirvana (no I’m talking peace, paradise and not the Indie Rock group)!
Maybe it is living in modern society, devoid of real, meaningful communication in a sea of technology-saturated communication.
But it is easy to blame the tech, men in terms of feelings and talking about them has never changed. As I’ve said our roles have changed, but the talking part hasn’t, and modern life has done very little to advance it.
Apart from the A.I. helper.
Yes, there is a crisis amongst men especially in the world today, we don’t talk enough and we don’t know how to just, well do it.
The way modern life is constructed, with our mobiles, social media and all our gadgets doesn’t really help us to forge face to face, meaningful relationships.
Or even chat to a stranger on the tube. Everyone has their heads down, swishing away and living online.
But a solution or at least a way forward for men especially is this A.I. bot.
It listens, it doesn’t judge and it allows men to reflect and analyse themselves without the fear of being laughed at or ridiculed.
Quite ironic that a solution lies within causes of the problem or at least something which overall compounds the problem.
I wonder if tribesmen feel lonely?
I bet they chat all day or maybe because their need to survive is so great they don’t have time to look at this level of their feelings.
Just a thought.
So if you or someone you know is going through some bad stuff, or distant and unhappy, don’t ignore it, maybe suggest this way of talking or getting things out and it might go from there. Likewise, see their GP is always a good idea if depression is present.
If you want to read more of my musings and articles have a look here on my blog on the Axe your 9 to 5 website.
Or if you want to see what education I am getting that is changing my life around and getting out of the 9 to 5 by building my own online business, there are 7 free videos that will blow your mind. It is what I’m into for my own mental well-being.
They will show you that there are alternatives out there that any person can achieve if they want to. Act here for the videos.
So, what do you think about this A.I. Bot or men’s ability to talk? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Take back control.
If you are struggling with mental health, feelings of being low, or depressed please speak to your GP or the Samaritans.
Men-specific Samaritan support.
Harry Men’s research report click here.