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Mental health takeover: What is the secret to eternal happiness?

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 August 2017

Martin Daubney, former editor of Loaded, campaigner & co-founder of the Coalition for Men & Boys. Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Devon.

Martin Daubney, former editor of Loaded, campaigner & co-founder of the Coalition for Men & Boys. Photo: Courtesy of Natasha Devon.

Courtesy of Natasha Devon.

Former lad magazine editor MARTIN DAUBNEY puts to spotlight on men’s mental health - and asks what really makes men happy.

Be honest, when was the last time you were truly happy? And what put you in that emotional sweet spot?

Big events like the birth of your child? Your wedding day? Or smaller, priceless pleasures, like a cup of tea in bed, made by your fairer half, parent or child?

This key to eternal happiness has fascinated us since the dawn of time. If we could bottle it, we’d all be millionaires. If only we could Google it, you wouldn’t be reading this. Perhaps, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it doesn’t even exist?

But what if it did? What if, by asking thousands of happy people what makes them happy, we could make a toolkit to help improve the rest of our lives?

It is precisely this that drove me to ask the question: what makes men happy and contented? I decided to ask men not only because I am one, but because in a whole raft of areas, men are falling behind, suffering and even dying in silence.

So in conjunction with my colleague Dr John Barry at University College London, for the last three months we’ve been running an ambitious survey called “Core Values & Wellbeing in 2017” (Google it – you can still take part).

To date, we’ve asked over 2000 British men: what values do you hold dear? What roles physical health, mental health, work, family, love, and friends play in men’s happiness?

We hope to find out: where do the UK’s happiest men live? What do they do? What can we learn from them?

It’s often taken as read that, in life, to be born male (and especially a white man) means you’re guaranteed a better shot at happiness in life, as you’ve already won life’s lottery.

Yet irrefutable statistics paint a very different picture.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, with men three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Twelve British men will end their own lives today.

Men die younger then women, make up 95pc of prison inmates and 85pc of the homeless.

Men might start wars, but millions have fought and died in them to protect society (98.6pc of UK military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were male).

And from reception to university, boys are the bottom of education’s class, with white, working class boys being the worst performers of all.

Statistics like these (especially as the son of a coal miner) bothered me so much, that last year I co-founded the Men and Boys Coalition in Parliament.

We want to identify areas where men and boys are falling behind, and do something about it at policy level.

Because as a society we have a blind spot – a gender empathy gap – to men’s needs. If men do have problems, they are expected to “man up” or “grow a pair”. Perhaps as a consequence of this attitude, men are 50pc less likely to seek help with their mental health.

It is still an all-too-commonly held view that women have problems, are men are problems.

Men undeniably have problems – but what are the solutions? What could make men happier, and, by dint, more productive members of society?

Yesterday, I enjoyed a burst of pure happiness when my son, 8, almost beat me in a race over a deserted beach on the Isle of Harris. Soon, he’ll beat me. Yet my inevitable “failure” will be a sweet victory; both for him and me, as I’ll be able to say “I helped make him”.

Maybe eternal happiness doesn’t exist. But it won’t stop some of us fools from searching.

• For more from the EDP’s special mental health takeover edition, click here.

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