In 2019, for every 3 suicides recorded, 2 were by males. This is a common observation found in many other developed countries,where consistently more males than females die by suicide. This gender difference can be worrying and it may be attributed to an age-old stereotype – “Men don’t cry”.
In this article, we interviewed Randolph Oudemans, the CEO and founder of Now.Here. to uncover some personal insights from his experience of managing his mental health as well as ways he would encourage readers to be more compassionate to themselves.
Q: What do you think are some challenges and expectations Singaporean men face in theirlives?
R: Singaporean men face similar challenges as men around the world. Society expects men be strong, not vulnerable, and to not show any signs of weakness. Success to men is often associated with high earning power and a good career and less often associated with being authentic to themselves, kindness and having positive relationships.
Q: What were some personal mental health challenges you faced in the past and how did you overcome them?
R: I suffered from immense pressure and suffering when I lost my job, which by the way, is something I have experienced on more than one occasion. I felt that my sense of self-worth and identity had been kicked out from under me.
To overcome these challenges, I took an honest inventory of who I was, what I valued and who I wanted to be. Then I started focusing on these. Closing the gap between who I was authentically as compared to who society was expecting me to be took great honesty and discipline. So I began focusing my time and energy on developing skills that support myself on this journey, including the practice of meditation, positive thinking, prayer, compassion for self and others. All of these have helped me enjoy greater mental health.
Q: What does “Man up!” mean to you?
R: When I hear “Man up!” I hear - “Forget your insecurities and fears, lean forward and get to work…Face the situation and push through.” The message I hear can be very inspiring in and of itself, but it is couched in a tragic formulation which implies that this is what being a man is.
Q: Can masculinity hurt the mental health of men? How?
R: If we buy into narratives that deflect us from who we truly are, it will begin to undermine our mental health, and happiness.
Q: Can masculinity and self-care co-exist with each other?
R: Self-care can exist with everything. Self-care sounds a lot like love to me. Love can exist with everything.
Q: How do men tap on their masculinity to care for their mental health?
R: I would suggest that men consider forming support groups with other men so that they can talk freely and openly and learn how to support themselves and one another. At the same time, I suggest they study and learn self-compassion. These skills can be learned and practiced just like any other skill in life.
Q: How do you think we can better support men’s mental health?
R: The community can reconsider what it means to be “masculine”. We can review how we formulate expectations on men and neutralise existing stereotypes though messages sent through words, conversations, tv shows, publicity messages etc.
Q: Please share some tips on how one can start being more compassionate to themselves.
The quintessential question of self-compassion is - “What do I need in this moment?”
The simplest way to start being more compassionate would be through some reflection. First, takeout some paper and pen and find a quiet place to sit. Give yourself lots of time and then ask yourself a few questions:
1. What am I feeling in this moment, both emotionally and physically? Write your responses down, take the time to be clear and articulate. Avoid using easy words like “happy” or “sad”. You are a human being with a large range of feelings, sensations and emotions.
2. Next, ask yourself, what do I need at this moment? Once again please take the time to be super clear and specific. There is an entire library of “needs” that you experience and they are often shifting and evolving. So tune in to them and pen them down.
3. Finally, ask yourself, what can I do to begin to give myself what I need. With the responses you have, take the necessary steps to provide yourself with your needs.
Catch Randolph this Sunday, 13 September 8.30pm at our #HOWRU Virtual Walkathon live panel When Man-Up is Not An Answer on Facebook live here.
This is a blog collaboration project between Now.Here. and Samaritans of Singapore to offer key insights and practical skills as preventive and supportive measures towards suicidal thoughts for the World Suicide Prevention Day.
This article is contributed by Now.Here., a social enterprise that empowers people with the skills of compassion to experience happiness, flourish and contribute to a better world. Visit them at www.now-here.global.
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