Will the ‘real men’ please stand up?

One of the greatest tragedies in our nation, is that more than 2,000 Australians die by suicide every year. And 4 out of every 5 of these Australians are male.

Suicide is about many things – loss of hope, a cry for help, a lack of understanding of self-worth and purpose. It’s also about isolation and feeling there isn’t anyone to talk to or anywhere to go or anything that can be done.

Lives cut short for no good reason.

A friend and colleague, Ehon Chan, has recently developed a national campaign titled soften the f— up (Soften TFU).

Potentially controversial, Soften TFU seeks to challenge male stereotypes, common mantras and advice such as “harden the f— up” which further marginalises men and any challenges they may be facing.

Soft launched (no pun intended) only a few days ago on crowdfunding platform Start Some Good, the campaign is already achieving success.

Front page article on news.com.au, and a flurry of comments within hours of posting – indicate that this is a very real topic that strikes a chord at the heart of our culture.

One of the goals of Soften TFU is to encourage men to seek help when they need it and to open an honest dialogue about men’s mental health issues.

In order to achieve this though, the perception that a ‘real man’ is tough and silent and ‘deals with it and moves on’, needs to be addressed.

So, what is a real man?

Ehon argues that, “being a real man is about being tough enough to acknowledge something isn’t right and strong enough to seek help.”

How do we begin to create a definition of manhood in this nation that is beyond the stereotypes? And beyond the conflicting images portrayed by advertising, sport and the media?

Clearly there isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all model or definition. But without core values or principles how do we define what it is that we want our boys to become?

This is a vital conversation about real people, real issues and real lives. And if it requires a controversial slogan to spark and fuel that conversation, I’m all for it.

If you want find out more about Soften TFU and support Ehon’s work click here.

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