By Gabriel Kolanen
Days darken, leaves litter the ground, and the wind bites a bit more than before. For sure, autumn is in full swing, and as November sets in you might notice another tell-tale sign of the year: messy stubble, questionable facial hair, and perhaps, grizzly beards.
Since 2003, the Movember Foundation has shone the spotlight on a topic that has in recent years gained more and more attention–men’s mental health. What I would like to propose is that this month, let’s pay closer attention to the guys (and gals) around us that could use a good conversation. Good talk, as superfluous as it might sound, is essential. Simply put, we are bad at talking about things that press our mind, preferring to continue with our daily business while keeping that other an arm’s length away.
Don’t keep it to yourself. The university provides services that are there to listen, advise, and help.
I kept it to myself, and it did no good–nor did it help. My parents divorced in June, the following month I was informed by my partner that she was done, and had been for a while with another one. The former was long in the making–the latter quite a surprise. To put it into words is difficult, to keep it to yourself unbearable.
I found outlets, or, I guess, intensified the activities that made me feel good: running, dancing, meditation, and hiking (there’s lots of open, isolated space in the Scottish glens where you can profusely swear at anything and everything–the only thing you’ll disturb is the local grouse). Blasting music that alternates between sappy heartbreak songs and explicit rap also, curiously, seemed to hit the right spot. I’ll have to send some suggestions to Spotify after this blogpost.
Yet, I found it–and still do–difficult to talk about summer. I am afraid of being vulnerable, even sometimes with my close family and friends. I recall sitting on a flight, flying to meet some lads in Mallorca; something grabbed my heart and tightened in my chest and amid all these strangers, I found warm tears streaming down my face. Then and there I knew I had to talk. I couldn’t keep it bottled up and hide behind a smiling, joking façade. Slowly but surely I’ve been able to express the need to talk and share–the need to have someone listen and care. Call your mum, dad, siblings, friends, and be honest, tell them you’re feeling pretty shitty (or even a little) and you would like to talk–even if it’s a half an hour conversation on Archimedes Principle and the feasibility of accommodating two people on a floating door in the middle of the Atlantic.
There’s a documentary that was released about a year back called The Work. It covers the events of a four-day prison program in California that allows people of the public to interact with the inmates. I strongly recommend watching it to understand the plight of men and our preference, conscious or unconscious, to remain mute.
This Movember let’s talk, listen, and share.