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For resilience: for what is, and what will be

HIM + HIS : Men + Mental Health

HIM + HIS is an exploration of what identity means to the male: Him, signifying the physical being, and His, symbolising the mind and the journey to acquiring agency over one’s mental state.

The book consists of many versions of voice, of both visual and written contributions; a collection of poems, letters, illustrations, photography, interviews, short stories and even the skeleton of a screenplay. All contributions have been welcome; whether you are man yourself, and have suffered from mental health issues and mental illness, or whether you are the family or friend, like myself, who have watched their loved ones eaten alive by their minds.

After my twin brother was diagnosed with psychosis and clinical depression, myself and my family looked for comfort in the situation and found little. Working with the NHS, as much as they have helped, has caused trauma rather than easing the pain of having a loved one sectioned in an institution. He has now been in a psychiatric ward for young adults since January 2017, the longest he has ever been sectioned.

The problematic discourse around men and mental health reinforces the prejudice and stereotypes in place that drag the male self and ego into the ground - vulnerability and fragility framed as a defect and a weakness. Mental health is often accompanied with unfavourable language that fuels suppression, denial and destruction of yourself and those around you.

Although men and mental health is being addressed more and more by professionals and the media, many men are still reluctant to seek help and signs of distress are often left undiagnosed until it is too late. These approaches are found by many men to be inaccessible, forced and patronising. In the UK, only 15-19% of men would seek help from their GP for anxiety or depressive tendencies; and only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men.

In 2015, 75% of all suicides in the UK were by men. Now, 84 men in the UK take their own lives every week.

HIM + HIS hope to be a longstanding platform and forum for men of all ages and backgrounds to discuss and share their feelings of themselves and of life, to celebrate both the highs and the lows; championing both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Hopefully with this type of support network, we will not have to rely on sedation and medication, but instead on emotional openness and communication. I hope only that HIM + HIS is more than paper, providing some sort of comfort for sufferers and their families. For it to be a platform to speak honestly, however dark; remaining a journal of hope that whilst things may not get better, they are manageable and accepted.

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