Men Discuss Mental Health and Suicide With #ItsOkayToTalk

August 29th 2016

Lucy Tiven

An August social media campaign is inviting men to speak up about mental health and suicide using the hashtag #ItsOkayToTalk.

Though suicide can prove a touchy subject regardless of gender, mental illness is often thought to be a stereotypically female problem.

Yet, men who die of suicide in the United States outnumber women by 3.5 times, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention explains.

The hashtag was created by Irish rugby player Luke Ambler, Mashable explains.

Ambler lost his brother-in-law to suicide in April, and subsequently created a Facebook group for men to discuss mental health issues.

In late July, he launched the campaign by sharing a selfie of himself making an "OK" sign with his hand and invited other men to do the same.

"The single biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide," he wrote. "In 2014, 4623 men took their own life. That's 12 men everyday, one man every 2 hours!!! 41% of men who contemplated suicide, felt they couldn't talk about their feelings."

Since then, many other men and women from around the world have used to hashtag to open up about mental health and suicide.

In an interview with the Independent, Ambler said he received an outpouring of support and appreciation since creating the hashtag.

"There’s been so much positive feedback," he said. "The one that really touched me was this man who messaged me on Facebook with the words 'You saved me.' I’ve also received emails and messages of thanks, men telling me they feel they are not alone and that the campaign has made them feel that they can talk about their mental health problems."

He also explained some of the misconceptions about gender and mental health he hoped to tackle with the campaign.

"Gender roles have to change from how we traditionally thought [of men and women], and showing emotions for men isn’t easy – people think men are the strongest in the family – it’s stronger if you talk about your feelings, and don’t bottle it up – that means more than physical strength," he told the Independent.

Ambler also invited others to reach out and join the Facebook group that spawned the movement.

In a 2011 paper published in the BC Medical Journal, Dan Bilsker, Ph.D., and Jennifer White, Ed.D., describe male suicide as a "silent epidemic."

"Only by breaking the silence—building public awareness, refining explanatory frameworks, implementing preventive strategies, and undertaking research—will we overcome this epidemic," they write.

[h/t Mashable]