brand logo

Being strong is a human trait, not a masculine one: Amandha Amarasekara

2 years ago

Share on

The Movember Series

By Naveed Rozais In recent years, November has gained global popularity as a month in which to raise awareness and provoke discussion on men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s mental health and wellbeing. Men’s health is an under-discussed issue, particularly in the Sri Lankan context, and male mental, sexual, and physical health issues are not always addressed in our system. From a local perspective, counselling psychologist and psychotherapist Nivendra Uduman noted that it is important we acknowledge that men sometimes have unique needs, and their perceptions of illness and wellness may be different to what is commonly understood. “Globally, we know that men tend to take their health more lightly than people of other genders, and this is often linked with alcohol use, unidentified/undiagnosed mental illness, and stigma surrounding men seeking help. This is no different in Sri Lanka, although there has been an increase in young men between 16 and 35 years seeking help for mental health problems in the recent past, which is very encouraging,” Uduman said. Known globally as “Movember”, the concept was initially introduced by Australian charity organisation The Movember Foundation. Movember began as a month-long initiative that encouraged men across the world to grow their moustaches in the month of November to build awareness on men’s issues (Movember itself is a portmanteau of the Australian slang for moustache “mo”, and November). The Sunday Morning Brunch sat down with several influential Sri Lankan men for their perspective on men’s health, building awareness, and what we can do to make a difference. This week, we spoke with model, content creator, and Mr. International 2018 Amandha Amarasekara for his views on men’s health issues and men’s mental health.   What are the biggest issues you feel men face in terms of health and wellness? The biggest issue is the overwhelming insecurity that men need to fit into a certain box image and ideology. We’re told and shown by the media that we should look like this and behave like this, but that stereotypical image is fundamentally flawed and incorrect. We end up always trying to pursue the “manly man” image because that is what is seen as “successful”; to be seen as the alpha male; the one who “gets the girl” and “defeats the bad guy” in the end. We are shown that a manly man doesn’t talk about his feelings, doesn’t wear fancy or bright-coloured clothes, and figures it out on his own. And this conditioning is encouraged by our parents, from our peer groups, from general social media, and also from school. We’re constantly being told that if we don't comply with it, we’re flawed and we’re like factory rejects. On a personal level, when I stopped drinking and smoking, I had people ridiculing me for “not being a man”. I was excluded from a lot of gatherings and generally seen as weaker than the average man. When I started to follow and experiment with certain fashions and trends, be it on social media or in general, I was seen as a “weirdo” and this was my from my own peer group. One of the fundamental things we’re facing as men is that we don't have the freedom of individual expression – that we must fit into that framed and archaic ideology.   What is lacking in discussions around mental health? As someone who dabbles a lot in social media, what I realised was a lack of small progressive support groups for guys. Social media has transformed into something that is an intricate part of our lives. I see this often, especially on Instagram – if a girl posts a picture, she gets a lot of encouraging comments, especially from her friends. This sort of support is a lot more infrequent with guys. It’s a friend or two, if ever, who says anything positively reinforcing. We, as with animals, find safety and security when we feel accepted within our herd. We’re always craving and yearning for acceptance, but we never receive this, and we come to conclude that we’re probably “not good enough” and that we’re not socially acceptable. Generally, men have a lack of self-worth because we’re afraid we’re not good enough in the eyes of society. What we need is for more gentlemen to come out, speak their truth, and encourage one another so that we as a gender feel more reassured and safe.   What can we do to provoke discussion and create safe spaces for men to talk about their health, particularly their mental health, openly? We need to tackle the main idea that’s instilled in us that being a man is being unbreakable; that it is being this dominant power nothing can move or shake. Being strong is a human trait, not a masculine one. To be strong, to be unwavering, to be resilient, is to be human. Everything we’ve achieved as a species, we’ve accomplished by venturing into the cold, dark unknown with the contribution of both genders. The flip side of being a strong, resilient human being is us breaking down, having bad days, and talking about our emotions. I see a lot more men coming out and talking about their personal stories. This, however, is relatively recent, maybe over the last four to five years or so. The whole alpha male image is something that has been around for a long time – since my grandfather’s grandfather and before – but we have made significant progress. We have superstars like Terry Crews coming out and speaking about their mental health. We’re on the cusp of turning things around. It’s just a matter of time now.   What message do you feel is most important to share this Movember? That it’s okay. It’s okay for you as a man to like what you like and not like what you don't like; to do what you want to do and not to do what you don’t want to do. If you don't like cricket and like video games instead, that’s fine. If you’d rather learn how to dance than to learn how to play rugby, that’s fine. Strive to do what makes you smile from the bottom of your soul, and on the way, if you meet another gentleman in trouble, lend a hand, lift them up, and truly live life without just existing.  
Sri Lanka has several crisis hotlines for those in need of mental health support. If you or someone you know are feeling suicidal or at risk emotionally or mentally, please reach out on the following hotlines:
  •   1333 – a 24-hour hotline by Courage Compassion Commitment (CCC) Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in Sri Lanka and Australia to provide services in the areas of cancer and mental wellbeing
  •   0112 696666 – a hotline by the government-approved charity Sumithrayo that provides confidential emotional support to those in need (in operation from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily)
  •   1926 – the 24-hour national mental health line at the National Institute of Mental Health which provides emotional support to those in need until they can meet a mental health professional

You may also like