These videos have a hidden message about men and mental health


These men are trying to share a secret with you.
Image: movember foundation 

The Movember Foundation, an international men’s health charity, knows how to find novel ways to talk about uncomfortable subjects like prostate cancer and suicide prevention. Famous for their annual mustache growing campaign, the nonprofit uses meme-ready initiatives to raise awareness about taboo subjects.

Now the foundation’s latest effort makes clever use of traditional internet gold: the how-to video. 

The three new YouTube clips, published in advance of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, contain a hidden message about men and mental health. If you’re just watching the text scroll on-screen, but not listening to the sound, what you’ll see are men explaining how to make a fishing rod, fill a gas barbecue tank, and change a flat bicycle tire.  

Everything changes, however, if you un-mute the sound. 

In one video entitled “You don’t have to be a fisherman to master this simple survival skill,” a man improvises a fishing rod out of a soda can as the text on-screen reads: “This is great for doing at home. Make sure it’s empty, then pierce the can.” 

But his voice tells a different story. Looking at the camera, he says aloud, “Things aren’t great at home. It’s made me feel kind of empty.” He knows it might be “awkward” but he wants to turn things around and asks for your help. 

The other videos follow the same pattern. The man fixing a flat bike tire says, “At first, I felt like I was kind of in a hole — couldn’t be around people. And that’s when I realized something’s not quite right.” He asks whether it’s a good idea to call a mental health support hotline. The text, meanwhile, is all about how to repair a flat on-the-go and betrays nothing about his pain. 

The clips spoke to Kevin Hines in a powerful way. 

“They’re working on these little projects and [the videos] have this double meaning,” says Hines, a suicide attempt survivor and Movember Foundation ambassador. “That part resonated with me because I’ve engaged in activities in my life where I’m doing something considered masculine and all I wanted to do is just break down and cry.” 

The videos are part of “Unmute – Ask him,” a monthlong campaign to encourage conversations about men’s mental health. The foundation’s website includes pointers for how to have tough discussions like these. 

“We can all play a part in reducing the rate of male suicide by sparking a potentially life-changing conversation – the simple first step is just to ask and listen,” Craig Martin, global director of Mental Health & Suicide Prevention at the Movember Foundation, said in a statement. 

While women in the U.S. are more likely to attempt suicide, men are far more likely to die by suicide. In 2015, white men accounted for seven out of 10 suicide deaths in the U.S. Globally, a man dies by suicide every minute, according to the Movember Foundation. 

Hines says that friends and loved ones can help support a man by asking open-ended questions about how they’re doing and what they’re feeling. He recommends a non-judgmental approach, particularly if you don’t get a candid answer the first or second times but still suspect something is wrong. 

Men, he says, can actively search for the people in their lives they trust with intimate feelings and who can “create a safe space” to talk about emotions. 

“My hope for these videos is that when men are suicidal and bottling it up inside and getting more sick, those who see these videos get a spark lit underneath them and rise up to say, ‘I get to talk about this. I’ve earned talking about this. I deserve to be here.'” 

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources.

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