When the Dust Refuses to Settle

The dust is settling on the performance element of Man Up; a week of sold out shows in a working men’s club in Stoke-on-Trent that told stories about mental health, questioned how we define masculinity, and showed that men can be open about their feelings.

Man Up is not alone in giving voice to the issue of male mental health, but it has played its own part in contributing to the wider conversation. It has reached people who may not have been reached; who may not otherwise have seen that it’s okay to display vulnerability.

The dust will not settle on Man Up’s legacy or the actions that result from the message of hope we tried to give to audiences.

A news story this week - that the suicide rate among men is at its lowest since 1981 - offers its own hope that men are talking and seeking help. But it also acts as a reminder of the ongoing need to keep highlighting the issue, emphasised by blog posts like this or moving, honest podcasts like this.

In that sense, nor can the dust settle on the energy stirred in Man Up’s participants. During the rehearsal process, we were all asked to share some of the actions and techniques we use to combat negative thoughts and feelings, and, as far as possible, maintain a positive mental outlook. The suggestions were pooled to produce these ‘wellbeing cards’, which were made available at the performances:

 Wellbeing cards produced for Man Up, a performance by Restoke, in August 2018. Photograph by Paul Forrester.

Like the show itself, feedback on the cards has been positive. People have popped them into the back of their transparent phone cases as an ever-present reminder and source of advice.

Hearing how they have helped people only serves to demonstrate why I'm unwilling and unable to stop talking about this subject, and why it felt important to share the photo above. The more things get shared, the better. But if just one person sees this post and gets some benefit from it, it will have been worth writing.

Life isn’t perfect, but social media bombards us with the highlights of other people’s lives and makes us judge ourselves against unrealistic expectations.

I’m interested in motivation and productivity, and I try to read sensible advice about how to do work I’m passionate about and grow my business. That doesn’t stop me from also finding people who are ultra-motivated and ultra-productive, and who make me feel bad if I’m not living the best possible version of my life every minute of every day. I refuse to believe these people are as perfect as they make out.

Maintaining perspective is important, and it is for that reason that the wellbeing cards were accompanied by the following words:

Remember that this advice comes from people just as flawed as you. We do our best to practice what we preach. We don’t always succeed. But we’re better for trying, and knowing how good the benefits feel inspires us to keep going.