To mark International Men’s Day, a selection of men from the University of Sunderland describe what being a male in 2019 really means.

David Wilkinson, performance coach

International Men’s Day (IMD) is a huge positive step for our society to accept men and understand that we bleed as well, as in we have our stress, pain and challenges that we struggle to deal with. It’s also massively important for other men to see events/days like this and understand it’s ok to share how you feel.

The world is quickly changing – for the better in many cases -– but I can’t help but feel that men are struggling and getting pushed out. However this day gives men a space to be open, to share and to accept that being honest about their emotions is a liberating feeling. That ability to drop their mask and be themselves without ego.

In my opinion men often find it difficult to communicate their feelings because it inherently comes from our up-bringing and society. The whole thing around men must be strong, men mustn’t show weaknesses. Men must go out and provide. We as men see being vulnerable as being weak and talking about our emotions and feelings is weakness. However this isn’t working. We are bottling up our emotions and not recognising how we feel. Yes it is changing, but very slowly.

Alex Costin, a graduate, born female and currently in the transitioning process

I’ve never really been included in IMD because I’ve never been seen as a real man, so previously it’s not meant an awful lot to me. More than ever though, it’s a day to get the men in our lives who are struggling with mental health to speak up. It’s a day to tear down this idea that men aren’t meant to have feelings or cry and to tell them that it’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to get help in your own time and way.

Men find it difficult to communicate feelings because the old ideology of masculinity is toxic. Men are told they have to be the bread winner and they get told to ‘man up’ if they cry. This just isn’t fair and shuts down the chance of healthy expressing emotions, which unfortunately leads to a high suicide rate in men. I do believe it is changing, especially in younger generations.

Jordan Kyle Robertson, student, husband, and father

IMD is a day that anyone can step back and look at the men in their lives and appreciate what they have contributed to their lives. Also, highlighting male role models and raising awareness of men’s mental health by encouraging men to talk.

I think men often find it difficult to communicate their feelings because of the idea of men having to be the hunter, provider, the pillar of strength and not looking weak. I think the embarrassment of being seen as weak or soft, not being able to be ‘man enough’ and not being able to handle every situation that arises, is a contributor.

I do think it’s becoming more natural and normal for men to talk about problems and open up, but we’re still a very long way off before the stigma clears. The problem is with men just bottling stuff up, hiding things, and not talking which causes mental health issues.

Yusuf Meah, chaplain

IMD is a day of opportunity to focus on men’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality and highlighting male role models.

Struggling to communicate feelings is part of masculinity and not a negative. We have our own ways of expressing feeling and emotions and will be quite different to women. We are usually a closed book which needs exploring. We can be quite open and expressive but that is usually with someone who is close.

Arran Coram, student

International Men’s Day is massive, it brings awareness to everyone all over the world for the people who are suffering on a daily basis.

Men often find it hard to communicate their feelings because of how men are stereotypically viewed and because of previous generations making comments such as ‘man up’. This is definitely starting change, men are starting to break through and talk about their mental health, the likes of Tyson Fury being an advocate of this.

Joel Manning, international student

IMD means celebrating the achievements of men both young and old. Those who have gone before and laid a foundation, and those who are now coming up and standing on that foundation but also challenging what exists and creating new paths for future generations of men to follow.

The appearance of coming across as weak or less masculine is what I would say poses the greatest challenge to men communicating their feelings. The notion of having to be strong 24/7 or the protector for the most part stops several men from going deep within and just saying what they feel or want.

With discussions surrounding mental health becoming more popular I would say that there has been a slight shift over time and men are beginning to communicate those once inner thoughts.