November 19 is International Men’s Day. A day when the world focuses on the health and wellbeing of men. Men are traditionally poor at seeking help and talking about their own health and that of those around them.
Last week I had the experience of organising my first event for men. After 25 years of equality work, organising many events for women, Pride, Black History Month, and accessibility, it was a first for me to run an inclusion & diversity event where I wasn’t showing up as an ally. I attended in my own right.
It felt very indulgent and I must say I enjoyed it, even if as the organiser I was making sure the video livestream and chat function was working (we broadcast live to 100 men across Europe and the US, and watched on repeat by over 200 more), rather than taking part in all of the interactive exercises.
It was a mental health for Dads event, “Coping with Peak Demand”, run in collaboration with Rob from ‘Dads in Business’ and Angga from ‘Men Up North’, who had travelled down from Sheffield to our London office. The feedback from all the men who watched and participated was very positive.
Of course it’s not just about Dads, or even about Parents, it’s about People (and frankly all the flora and fauna of our beautiful planet Earth). Men and Women (and children) need to work and talk together on the topic of inclusion, so that we all feel that we belong, and that we are supported.
So do we need this special day for men? To be honest, I am undecided. International Women’s Day has been running for over a century to highlight the economic and political inequalities faced by women, and I was proud to launch IWD celebrations at my company in 2015. It’s an important cause.
Men have the upper hand when it comes to power, but we do seem to need more support and attention when it comes to health, particularly mental health. There are pressures from society on men that push many of us to the breaking point. Some would rather die than show any weakness.
So if anything, the benefit of this day (whether we need it or not) is that it gets us to talk about men. I for one will be asking the men in my life how they are doing.
How they are really doing. We do need to hold space for men so that we can feel safe to open up and talk about our troubles and struggles.
Wherever you are in the world, or in your personal journey, happy international men’s day, chaps.
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Thank you to Brian Ballantyne.
Brian is a husband to Kate, and father to Gabriel (12) and Daniel (10). As a long-time advocate for women’s rights, he felt it was high time “working fathers” had space to talk about their experiences; which led him to start blogging #confessionsofaworkingfather on his LinkedIn Profile, which is now available as a book on Amazon (all proceeds are donated to Winston’s Wish, a UK charity for bereaved children).