Men in the Wild
CAMPAIGNING: QUEEN & COUNTRY
Men are facing a crisis of mental health, especially in the gay community. As Movember draws to a close, we're launching Men in the Wild - a photographic campaign to raise awareness around the issues and continue the conversation. We'll be talking to men with a connection to the countryside about their mental health and how they've taken action.
Photography by James Wilkinson
If experts are to be believed, the UK is in the midst of a full-scale mental health crisis. And men are most at risk, accounting for a staggering 76% of suicides last year.
In fact, suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-49 in the UK, with 12 men taking their life every day. A prevailing culture of men being unable or unwilling to talk about their issues only exacerbates the problem. Sadly, services aren’t improving fast enough for the number of incidences of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Men in the gay community are particularly at risk with overwhelming evidence of poor mental health and substance use. The NHS has taken a big step this year of recommending routine collection of information about sexual orientation by GPs. This is the first step that may enable the size of the problem to be measured. It is hoped there will then be an opportunity to create initiatives and services that are more responsive to the community's needs.
An expert on the subject, Q&C's resident doctor Mark Pakianathan said: "As someone working with gay men on the front-line, stories of suicide or deaths from accidental drug overdoses are not uncommon. The government has a responsibility to ensure that publicly funded services are culturally competent to meet our needs."
This is just the tip of the iceberg according to Dr Pakianathan who believes that we should look to early years interventions for the solutions. He added: "There needs to be government-led opportunities to discuss and explore issues related to sexual minorities in schools. There is also a need to implement interventions to reduce bullying in schools, fund research to understand LGBT childhood trauma further and identify evidence-based interventions to mitigate against the impact of this."
In short, there's a long road ahead, and with 61 million anti-depressants dispensed in England in 2015 – a staggering 107% increase since 2005, the problem isn't abating. Fortunately, it's a topic which is slowly losing its stigma, in part due to the number of public figures willing to talk on the subject.
The young royals recently launched their Head’s Together campaign, uniting eight mental health charities and encouraging millions of people to have important conversations about mental health. There is also the antics of hirsute men in November for the Movember Foundation, the only global charity focused solely on men’s health. There is CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, and also MIND’s Time to Change campaign, England’s most ambitious campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems.
Is masculinity really in crisis? The amount of campaigns and column inches dedicated to the subject suggest so, with traditional notions of masculinity becoming toxic and doing more harm than good. There is much debate about social media's role in this, fuelling an already growing problem.
Experts, influencers, researchers and campaigners are doing their best but more needs to be done – and everyone can play their part. We can no longer afford to stay silent and that’s why we at Queen and Country magazine are taking action to break the stigma of mental health once and for all, and continuing the good work that other campaigns have initiated.
This week we are launching Men in the Wild – a photographic campaign which we hope will raise awareness around the issues of men's mental health, especially in the gay community, and one which ultimately hopes to continue the conversation.
For the launch, we've talked to three different and unique men about some of the issues raised and how they take action to create better mental health. They've been photographed in the countryside exclusively for the campaign by James Wilkinson.
RICH THACKWAY // CHEF & PAGAN PRACTITIONER
Rich Thackway, 39, from Glastonbury said: "Living in the countryside keeps me feeling connected to the energies of the land. City dwelling is not for me - too many people, too much noise, traffic and even colour. The wild places; forests, moors, and hills allow me to breathe and truly relax.
"I often just take myself off somewhere, to be alone in the natural landscape, where the noise and colours are natural and easy on the eye. This is where my mind is more still and thoughts are a lot clearer, where I can maintain a greater sense of self. From time to time I suffer with mental health issues. When my demons are put to rest, the landscape allows me to heal and is an aid to keeping well - it balances me out.
"As well as holding down a job as a chef in a busy and demanding commercial kitchen I'm a practising pagan: someone who honours the land and all the nature within it. This is the space I practice my spirituality and sense of self. I also do Martial Arts out on the land as well, a sport to express myself, my feelings and help assuage any bad thoughts and energy.
"It's important to remember to always to give thanks for all the land that is presented to me, and in which I call home."
DAVID M L CLARKE // GARDENER
David M L Clarke, from Gosport, said: "I am a member of the Outdoor Lads group which is a social group for gay, bisexual and trans men who love the great outdoors. They organise events like hiking, camping, climbing, biking, sailing and skiing. Connection is key for me, and necessary for good mental health. The group has been a great way to expand my social network and I've met so many lovely, interesting guys from across the UK. It's a truly life-enriching experience and such a positive alternative to some of the more negative aspects of gay culture. This group is a great opportunity to get to know people in the great outdoors and doing really exciting activities which help take off the stress and strains of everyday life which occasionally blight us all."
STEVE KING // APPLICATION ARCHITECT
Steve King, originally from Gloucestershire. The photographs above were part of an art project in Avebury using the pagan god Cernunnos as its theme. Cernunnos is the name given in Celtic studies to depictions of the horned god of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was the Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth and the underworld.
Steve said: "A trip home to the countryside always helps with my mental health. Leaving the city and heading home is like a breath of fresh air, literally. I love walking the hills of Gloucestershire with my family, the tranquility of the open space is the best way to lift the pressures of life and work in London. The slower pace of life and the friendly faces keep me coming back as often as I can".
Anyone wishing to be a Q&C Man in the Wild can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow our Men in the Wild campaign on instagram @queenandcountrymagazine and share our campaign on social media by using the hashtag: #meninthewild and #meninthewildcampaign.