Charlotte Underwood is a 22-year old mental health advocate and author from Norfolk. After her father committed suicide, Charlotte resolved to try and help men by raising awareness of mental health issues faced by men, as well as ending the stigma surrounding them.
Don’t let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game
My father was the kind of man who you would find doing Tai-Chi at sunset and fishing by the lake on a warm evening. He was a man who understood that we all need to make time for ourselves and disconnect from the harsh realities of life sometimes. Despite his worldly knowledge and wisdom, I cannot say that my father was mindful. Although he knew the importance of self-care, he could not switch off from the world and ultimately fell victim to what I call ‘toxic masculinity’.
There can be no comparison in mental health, we’re all individuals who deal with thoughts and situations differently. However, when my father died by suicide four years ago, I realized just how hard it can be for men to be mindful and to ignore that stigma.
I suppose I became ignorant to the real problem because I’ve personally never had a problem with a man crying or not falling in to the ‘macho’ stereotype. In fact, I’ve found men more attractive if they showed their emotion, because it showed they were human.
We need to remind ourselves that emotions are at the foundations of who we are. They are what make us human and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
I can clearly see now, after the loss of my father, that there’s still an expectation for men to be seen as ‘macho’ providers with anything less being seen as a weakness. Isn’t it a weakness to not allow a wound to heal? Really, I only see strength from any man who can tell the world that he is not ok.
It is vital to take the time and to be mindful. I know that the way some men are conditioned, since childhood, can prove impossible to turn off. But, I also know that with enough time and rest to allow your thoughts and feelings to leave the confines of your brain you can start to focus on what really matters, you.
As I also have mental illnesses, I found that for a long time I was searching for acceptance from others, when all along the only acceptance I needed was from myself. And you know what? That’s a mantra to live by.
I know that my world is entirely different and I cannot imagine what it is to live as a man in this modern society. But, I do know what it is like to see the man that I loved most in the world lose his battle with his mind.
Of course, there are the questions that follow as to how and why, but I question whether if he had spent more time looking after himself, being a little selfish and dusting that toxic masculinity off his shoulders, maybe my father’s story could have been different.
As a woman I will tell you the same as I tell my husband…”We are two separate people with two very different brains, we come from different walks of life but none of that matters because at the end of the day, all I want is you to be happy and safe.”
If a person judges you for being honest and yourself, then you deserve better.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are not good enough.
A quote I love is, “Don’t let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game”.