Talking Masculinity & Mental Health with Matthew Slabbert

Hello poppets,

How on earth are we all?

This week on the blog i have an exciting guest to talk about his views on masculinity and how it is looked at in regards to mental health.

Something you guys don’t know about me is not only have i always wanted to work with people who have been abused and struggling with mental health but i actually (out in the community) wanted to work with males.

Yeah i suppose that does sound a bit strange

To me as a society we seem to forget about males. When we think of abuse we often think ‘oop must of been a man’and heavens forbid thinking about any male having any sort of mental health difficulty. I mean it just doesn’t happen,right?

Ive always been one of the boys and had predominantly male friendship groups. Ive also had my share of abuse from males too and known of numerous males struggling with mental health difficulties

Or most importantly, HIDING IT.

Theres always been this outlook on men. How they’re suppose to be strong and brave and tough. Showing no sign of strain almost to the point of being emotionless. Men were going off to war, seeing horrific things and suffering traumas themselves and we were expecting them to come home and not be phased about any of these things. Never mind them having a lasting impact.

Over the years we’ve managed to bring this terrible stigma along and shame it on our boys and today thats what me and Matthew will be talking about.

This post all really started from a conversation we had been having ourselves about mental health and what Matthew had used to help him through it. It slowly transitioned about how difficult it had been for him suffering as a male as there is so much stigma attached to such a thing.

Il let Matthew share a little on his views and how he feels about being a male suffering with mental health difficulties and the stigma attached:

Matthew: I have to strongly agree with you, as a society in general we have created this stigma surrounding Males and Mental Illness. When we think of the word “Masculine” we often think of Strength, Bravery, Toughness. The idea that Men should not feel emotion and when traumas occur, that they should simply, “Take it like a man”. Sadly, when traumas occur our brains often cannot just “Get over it”. As young as age 13, I’ve had to deal with this stigma. I was fortunate to have a mother that encouraged me to explore my emotions, even if that meant feeling despair and pain.

On the flip side, I’ve been lucky, through being in touch with my emotions, to write poetry and music. I guess what I am trying to say that it is important, especially as a Male, to feel. Happy, Sad and everything in-between. I feel extremely privileged to live in a time where we have so many Mental Health facilities exist, but the onus is on us, as men.

We need to reach out. We need to speak up. Whether it be to a partner, a friend or even seek professional help. It can be scary, but on a personal level, I’ve had to reachout and seek professional help, due to decline in my own mental health, but the best thing I could do and have done is speak out. Opening up the conversation is the first step. It’s amazing what airing out your demons will do. I hope that one day, we can speak about Mental illness with absolute freedom and help destroy the stigma surrounding this invisible illness that unfortunately, is robbing us of far to many amazing people.

Im so glad you had a mother than showed and taught you how important emotions are and to feel them as its still something parents don’t touch on. This whole subject meant a lot to me due to knowing about my abuser’s abuse. My grandad (My abuser’s abuser) was quite simply known as an ‘angry man’ by those close and a ‘real man’ by those around him. A strong, noble man with a good job and a wife at his side looking after the children. A man that hid his hurt to not deter people from his strong exterior. The whole situation was a classic for that generation and prior and he instilled onto his children how important it was to not talk about your feelings, hurts and worries and to simply just ‘toughen up’

I also had that instilled into me after my assaults as my grandma told me to sit down, dry my eyes and be ‘tough’. She too had that brave face persona and was terrified of anyone altering how anyone in my family looked from the outside. I can see how much damage the cycle caused just in my situation and how my grandads beliefs had been passed on.

That stigma really has been passed down from generation to generation and its so sad. I wonder what my families family life would of been like if someone just sat my grandad down and just said, “You know what its okay to feel how you’re feeling” before it manifested into such anger and passed down such anger through the family.

I’m so glad that you learnt that being not okay,is okay and i too hope that one day we can destroy this silly stigma.
What do you think each one of us can do to create a more caring environment for our men that allows them to talk?

This may sound trivial, but each on of us needs to kind. It sounds simple, but if we create a safe space, both physically and emotionally, I believe that is the first step. Even if we dont understand what they are going through, often times, just being a listening ear can make all the difference. I guess that best way to sum it up is, we are all human beings and we need to look after one another, especially as we live in a busy, stressful and often relentless world. Its okay to not be okay and having someone to talk to without judgment or ridicule is so important. So yeah, look out for one another.

And sometimes it really is as simple as that, right? I guess thats what makes it sad. Were just asking people to be kind and going right back to basics. Were all human and we all hurt. No matter the gender hurt is not something we should be sat with and dealing with on our own and it doesn’t just go away by hoping and praying it does.

Boys, if your friends seem up not 100%, ask them how they are. If they’re acting out of their norms or you’re not seeing them around as much, check on them. Its so important to let people know that being not okay is okay and its normal.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the wonderful Matthew for joining in on this post and all the insightful information he has shared with me. Below is a poem that this wonderful human being wrote for me. Matthew often expresses his love for poetry and how much its helped him in his struggle with mental health.

Vixen not victim
A voice for us all
A pin-up queen of beauty and grace
Helping to demolish a strong stigmatic wall

A Paige from Betty
A classic gal from days of old
Elegance, radiance and ever so pretty
Such wisdom, from the tales she told.

The littlest lady
A survivor from the darkest of days
Redemption, drawing attention
Her every demons, with ferocity she slays

What’s something that has helped you during your struggles?


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