INTERNATIONAL Men’s Day is celebrated in at least 60 countries around the world today (19 November), and aims to address wide issues relevant to men in a gender-inclusive way. Every year, it’s marked by more and more women, men and organisations across Wales and the UK.
In the UK, this year’s theme is ‘Better health for men and boys’.
International Men’s Day in the UK takes a gender-inclusive approach, and therefore believes in ensuring that issues affecting women and girls are also resolved. It recognises the intersection between gender and other factors, such as race and sexuality, which can compound the inequalities affecting men and boys.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:
“International Men’s Day is an important opportunity to highlight the problems and issues which men continue to face, both here in Wales and around the globe. It gets people talking and supporting each other – and that is such an important step.
“We know some issues affect men and women differently. We know that mental health, loneliness and isolation are not solely issues for men, but we also know that men are often less likely to seek help when they need it.
“Gender stereotyping cannot and should not be ignored. It is an enduring issue which underpins so much of our lives, whether we realise it or not. From the day we are born, it can influence the clothes we wear; the toys we play with; the subjects we study; our personality traits, confidence levels, choice of hobbies and social activities; our role in the family, and our choice of career.”
Paul, a construction worker, said:
“I’ve worked in the construction industry for 40 years. It is hard, physical work against the clock, which takes its toll on your body, but it’s also lonely work, which takes its toll on your mind.
“Over the years, I’ve spent weeks and months at a time working away from home, with people I don’t know well. There’s a certain ‘macho’ image to uphold – you can’t just say to a male work-mate: “Hey, I’m feeling a bit down today.” It isn’t right, but I’d get laughed off site.
“As I get older, I’m also aware that I’m getting slower. Of course that’s a worry – if I can’t keep working, I won’t get paid, and can’t look after my family. Depression is a familiar part of my everyday life, and yes, I’ve thought about suicide.”
Men’s Sheds are one way Welsh Government has been supporting men like Paul.
Jane Hutt continued:
“The Sheds combine social activities with tackling serious issues, and get people talking and supporting each other.
“The success of the Men’s Sheds movement around the world shows just how effective this approach can be. It’s a simple idea which has the power to transform lives.
“We have also provided a grant of £47,000 to the DPJ Foundation – a rural mental health charity – to extend its existing 1-2-1 counselling into North Wales, ensuring the service is available right across Wales.
“We all need to be aware of the damage caused by mental health and wellbeing issues, and to tackle these issues to ensure that our future generations are not limited or harmed by them.
“Mental health and loneliness can affect us all – regardless of age, gender, status or location. If we don’t seek the help we need, the impact on our wellbeing can be devastating.”
The Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said:
“I recognise how difficult it is for people to talk about their mental health – particularly for men. We have set out a range of actions in our Together for Mental Health Delivery Plan and our suicide prevention strategy, Talk to Me Two, to reduce stigma and encourage people to seek help for their mental wellbeing.
“We are also supporting a number of programs focused on men’s mental health, such as the LetsTalkMensMentalhealth campaign on social media. We have made a wide range of self-help resources available online or over the phone to encourage more people to access support.
“This year, more than ever, for today’s International Men’s Day let’s focus on ensuring all men are supported with their mental wellbeing. Reach out and speak to your friends and family, and encourage others to do the same.”