‘Death of A Salesman’ by Arthur Miller
The Young Vic’s adaptation of the 1949 play was simply faultless. So well executed was the storyline that I went home overcome by an aura of melancholy, unshakeable even by watching the funniest of comedies on Netflix.
If you are unfamiliar with the play, it happens to be one of Miller’s most telling and rawest of pieces. Focusing on a working class family, in particular, the patriarchal dynamic of that of an American salesman’s.
From loss of finances to a loss of respect from his two adult sons, the man becomes broken, his internal antagony is played out publicly to the audience. From his affairs to combat his loneliness despite sharing his home with a loving wife, to his power struggles in asking his boss for a raise. All too similar is the narrative of this fictional character’s life to that of so many individuals today. This relatability made for an engaging reenactment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
With the final moments of the performance crescendoing to catastrophic events leading to the fatality of the father, I asked myself the question – ‘how many men in this audience’ relate to his actions?
This led me to think back to another event I had attended at the Young Vic merely a few months prior. The event focussed on masculinity.
The event was an open Q +A style discussion among an audience on the topic of masculinity. The evening was incredibly insightful, with one question in particular demanding my attention:
“Does society’s limitations on men to open up and visibly share their emotions explain the suicide rates among men?”
In the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own lives than women. This ratio is similar internationally also. The BBC reported that women are more likely than men to attempt suicide, yet it is men who use more violent methods to commit suicide meaning there is a higher chance of completion before intervention.
These statistics should not go ignored. With a society becoming more and more tolerable and understanding of topics which decades ago would have been shunned and looked down upon such as: race, religion and sexual identity. There is still an elephant in the room, which the world just seems to ignore – the stereotype of masculinity.
The outdated inaccurate views that being masculine directly equates to being macho, to hiding your emotions, that crying is a sign of weakness, that men have to be the breadwinners.
Personally as a woman I do feel like the pressures that women face are much more ‘common knowledge’ because as women is seems to be that you’re allowed to ‘talk ‘ about them more openly, and listened to more readily. But for men this is unfairly not the case even still today. Some cultures may be more progressive and ‘open’ than others but I still feel that overall, the role men feel they need to fill has a substantial impact on their mental health.
Noting some of the comments people at the event on masculinity gave below as I feel they are both honest and genuinely food for thought, raising points which I believe all of us should take onboard:
- A man (18 – 24) – What Role Does Society Want Me To Play?
“I believe suicide rates are increasing among men because of the ‘disenfranchisement’ of the traditional male. Society nowadays wants you to be more ‘open-minded’ yet still be the ‘provider’ for the family. Men are getting more mixed signals from society today than it did before, now there is more pressure.
- A woman (18 – 24) – Male Suicide Female Suicide Comparison
“Women may attempt more suicides, yet it is men who do so in a more violent manner (slitting wrists, use of firearms) and have higher rates of completion than women.”
- A man (25 – 35) – Violence
“Violence was used as a way to vent out those emotions society wouldn’t allow me to.”
- A Woman (25 – 35) in response to the man (25 – 35)
“Isn’t violence a tool to someone committing suicide rather than a way to vent emotions?”
With mental health starting to be gain the attention it needs, shouldn’t an extension of this mean we have a duty of care to address the potential factors leading to the mental health of all genders and sexual identities? And not to simply take a generalised approach to mental health?
Whether you are reading this from within the UK or from outside of the UK, ff you feel like you need support for your mental well-being contact your local health service. It is not a sign of weakness, being proactive is a sign of strength.
Some UK based organisation that I know of:
The Samaritans Call 116 123
Mind call 020 8519 2122
NHS Mental Health Services