We all need to help men talk about men’s issues

I was deeply saddened to hear that the University of York has cancelled its plans to mark International Men’s Day and raise awareness of important men’s issues like male suicide, writes Glen Poole, co-ordinator for International Men’s Day in the UK.

I understand the university had planned to follow up the day by highlighting the availability of mental health and welfare support that is available to men.

When 13 a men a day in the UK are dying from suicide, it is essential that everyone in positions of power, trust and influence does everything they can to help men talk about the issues that affect them.

And that includes the academic community and student representatives.

One way we can all do this is to make it easier for people of all backgrounds and political perspectives to talk about men’s issues.

It seems that on this occasions, those academics, student representatives and alumni who have campaigned against the university’s plans to mark International Men’s Day, have put their personal gender politics ahead of their compassion for men and boys in crisis and distress.

I’d invite these campaigners to reflect on their actions and ask themselves this question: “whose voice is it more important to listen to on International Men’s Day, yours or the voices of suicidal men and those bereaved by male suicide?”

I wonder if you’d have compassion for men like Robert, who wrote to me last week and told me he’d sat on the railway tracks on many occasions in recent years, waiting for the Carlisle to Newcastle train to put him out of his misery.

With the help of supportive family and “an amazing GP” he managed to pull through. “You don’t know me,” he wrote, “but I just want to say how much I admire what you’re doing. I myself am a ‘survivor’, my story isn’t over thankfully. I will do whatever I can to help.”

I wonder if you have any compassion for men like Dave who wrote to me and said: “Your hard work on these issues warms my heart. My best mate from the age of four committed suicide four years ago as he couldn’t go on and no-one really got it or him. I still think of him everyday”.

I wonder if you have compassion for the young man called Sam who wrote to me last week about his experiences of having suicidal thoughts. He said:

“As a man who is recovering from mental problems and who has struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, I have had to face up to shame and discuss it in detail. It has been a painful and at times frightening process but one that has been key to my recovery. When we look at the problem of male suicide, we need to look at how our society sets up young men to experience potentially unmanageable levels of shame and need to work together to build a society where this in no longer the case.”

I wonder if you would take a moment to consider, with compassion in your hearts, whether your actions in campaigning against International Men’s Day are helping or hindering men like these to come forward and share their stories of male suicide?

When you campaign against initiatives to highlight men’s issues, are you helping suicidal men to talk about their issues, or making it harder for suicidal men to talk about their issues?

International Men’s Day in the UK has a proud record when it comes to promoting the need for male suicide prevention initiatives.

This year our theme for International Men’s Day is “Making a Difference for Men and Boys”.

I’d like to invite all those who have found time to campaign against an initiative that is designed to make a difference, to invest that time in supporting the day instead.

It takes great courage, compassion and creativity to take on difficult issues like preventing male suicide.

One creative way people are raising awareness of male suicide on International Men’s Day is by supporting a new social media campaign led by the charity CALM UK.

You can sign up for free to support this campaign at www.biggerissues.co.uk.

I don’t know if this campaign will help men talk about their issues or not, but I do know it will do more good than campaigning against the good people supporting International Men’s Day who are trying to make a difference for men and boys.

If you haven’t the compassion to join us, then my request is that you kindly leave us in peace do our work to help men talk about men’s issues like male suicide on International Men’s Day.