New Zealand culture is a funny thing. ‘Yeah, nah’ means no, we call strangers ‘mate’, and we are adamant our Aussie brothers stole our claim to fame (not the All Blacks: Pavlova). But one thing that’s not so funny is our expectations of men. The ‘bloke’ culture can be a classic gag but it also makes it hard for our men to talk about feelings.
Why is it we associate emotions with femininity? Men are human, they breathe, feel and think just like women, so why is it that an increasing number of males are diagnosed with some sort of mental health issue? I took to the streets to find out our male students’ thoughts.
“I think it’s because we build up men to be strong and powerful so if they talk about it, they feel weak. Like, we all have problems and stuff but I think generally men tend to want to bottle it up.
I guess it’s just the culture though; your boys are for yarns and beers but you don’t really go much further than that. Like, you may have a really close mate that you can talk to, but you don’t really talk that much about feelings.
I reckon we all need a feeling circle or something where we just tell our mates that we love them. It would probably be weird but I guess if we all do it, it would be sweet.”
“Growing up as an Asian New Zealander, our culture is even more closed off. Families show support in other ways, like financial aid. They don’t really sit you down and say “I’m proud of you”. I get why depression is a huge thing for guys because we don’t really have anyone to talk to. I think most of us just release our emotions physically like at the gym or playing sports but I think we need to talk about our emotions more.
My sister was treated like a precious flower but I was told I have to be strong because one day I’ll be head of the family. It’s a lot of pressure really but I don’t want to bring it up with my family. I don’t want to think I failed or let them down because they think I can’t handle it.”
“It’s kind of hard to tell if your mate is having a rough time. They just seem different, like more aggressive or maybe quieter. In the back of your mind you think you should ask them but you don’t want to look dumb if everything’s all good so you don’t bring it up. Maybe we should.
Going to counselling seems scary and like, super daunting. I don’t think many people want to do it so they just bottle it up inside till they explode. I think most guys would rather have a few beers to get over it than go to an actual place to talk.”
“For me I think uni stress is a huge thing. It’s super overwhelming but everyone says they feel it too so it kind of makes me feel like I’m overreacting. Like, if I tell someone they’re like, ‘me too’ and so I don’t bring it up again.
I kind of did my own thing and studied by myself because I felt shit when I saw others studying. It made me feel like I was just imagining things because isn’t that how everyone feels?
I didn’t go to the student services at AUT, I guess it’s cos’ I was embarrassed. Like, everyone feels stressed studying so yeah.”
“I think we need to change the culture and just talk about our feelings. It probably seems weird as at first but just asking each other ‘how’s your day’ and actually answering honestly could do heaps.”
“I mean, New Zealand has such a high suicide rate and I doubt those mates really knew what was going on when they did it. Just talk bro, it could save a life.”
If you or anyone you know needs help, here are some people you can contact.
For all emergencies call 111; Community Mental Health Urgent Response team: 0800 800 717; Central Auckland crisis team: 0800 800 717; North Shore crisis team: 09 487 1414; South Auckland crisis team: 0800 775 222; West Auckland crisis team: 09 822 8500; Lifeline, 24-hour telephone counselling service: 09 522 2999 or 0800 543 354; for support from a trained counsellor at any time free call or text 1737; Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO); Healthline: 0800 611 116; Samaritans: 0800 726 666.