With the digital “Heads Up” campaign, Social Change UK, a social research and campaign company, answered a need that was never verbalized.
Social research shows that 60% of men between 30 and 59 years in the UK do not seek help when emotionally troubled. This self-imposed isolation often results in mental health issues or worse – male suicide is a serious issue in the UK.
“Heads Up” was commissioned by the governmental actor Buckinghamshire County Council with an educational and service promoting aim (Baringhorst, 2009): The provision of an online help desk, as the majority of men would rather look for help online than ask for it offline.
The campaign’s website thisisheadsup.org provides acute help and tackles each problem at a time. The dread to ask for help is eased by the online help desk, the loneliness issue combatted with a solidarity network and the mental health problems alleviated via a network of experts.
It acts as an informational platform and a support network and efficiently approaches the issue (Hilder, 2007). But it does not address the underlying causes of the problem.
So why would men rather ask google for help than a loving family member or friend? The western world’s white patriarchal system dictates that men be strong and dominant (Fiske, 1989). The media – especially digital outlets – often acting as advocates to this dated attitude.
This is highlighted in the documentary “The Mask You Live In” (streaming on Netflix) where the audience is introduced to a refreshingly open dialogue with men, showing how it feels to live up to the standard society has set out for them and the long-term troubles it can cause.
The film is made by the NGO The Representation Project, which sets out to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes by using film as a catalyst. In an educational tone the documentaries made (see also “Miss Representation”) inform, solidify and mobilize their audience. (Baringhorst, 2009).
So just like women face sexism and prejudices, men are also being put in a box by society. In his TED Talk activist Tony Porter explains how to avoid isolation in the long run and makes an important call to men, asking them to break free of society’s and the media’s definitions of what manhood should be.
Discussing social change campaigns in class, we deal with communication regarding sexual assault prevention on women and gender equality a lot. Strengthening this dialogue from the male perspective feels like a sensible thing to do. Because if men would not have to feel like they need to be dominant, then women would not be forced into subordination. Suppressed male feelings could be aired out and this topical issue could be addressed from both sexes in unison, for the betterment of everyone.
Baringhorst, S. (2009). Introduction: Political Campaigning in Changing Media Cultures Typological and Historical Approaches. V. Kneip, S. Baringhorst, and J. Niesyto, Political Campaigning on the Web
Fiske, J. (1989). Reading the Popular. Unwin Hyman Ltd.
Hilder, P. C.-G. (2007). Contentious Citizen – Civil society’s role in campaigning for social change. The Young Foundation.