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Man up... it's time to let the floodgates open

Men are often afraid to cry, but it's doing real damage to their mental health as Kerry McKittrick reports

Published 02/10/2015

Sob story: it’s good not to hold back the tears
Sob story: it’s good not to hold back the tears
Ralph McLean
Pete Snodden
Stewart Dickson
Michael Conlon

Big boys really don't cry ... or so the findings from a new survey would have us believe. Mental health charity Mind has revealed that having a good blub every now and again is good for offsetting anxiety. However, the old stereotype of women weeping more often than men appears to hold some water.

Women are three times more likely to cry when they feel upset in the past week than men, and twice as likely to say they felt better having had a sob, according to the Populus poll.

Mind say crying is a useful response to problems such as stress, but with men more likely to bottle up their emotions they could be putting their mental health at risk.

Paul Farmer, Mind's chief executive, says: "Many of us lead busy, stressful lives, and sometimes it can feel like things are spiralling out of control. Although it may seem tempting to put on a brave face, it really is okay to cry. It's time for us all to stop holding back the tears and reach out for support."

He warns if anxiety gets out of control, it could potentially lead to a mental health issue.

We talk to four local personalities to see if they reach for the hanky or not.

'At the birth of both of my children, the tearducts just went'

Ralph McLean (45) is a TV and radio presenter and lives in Ballymoney with his wife Kerry and their children Tara (8) and Dan (7). He says:

I cry all the time. The last time was quite recently when I took my son over to Anfield to watch a Liverpool game for the first time. I'm a lifelong Liverpool fan so to take my son for the first time was quite emotional, it really felt like passing the baton from father to son. Seeing him excited and delighted to be there was wonderful.

It's all happened since I had kids - before they came along I would never cry and wouldn't have thought it was a very manly thing to do at all. Now I get emotional very quickly.

I do try not to cry in front of the kids too much - I don't want them to worry if they think I'm upset. At the same time I want to make sure it's okay for them to express emotion and for Dan to know there's nothing unmanly about it.

Of course I cried at the birth of both of my children - the tearducts opened when Cara was born and then when Dan was born, too. It releases a whole extra side to your emotions that I wasn't aware of before.

Crying is good - people bottle things up and letting your emotions go enables you to deal with things better.

People of my generation were brought up not to cry and you were considered a weakling if you did, but as you get older you realise it's important to deal with all of your emotions. It doesn't make you any less of a man if you cry."

'If the moment takes you, why not?'

Pete Snodden is a Cool FM DJ and lives in Bangor with his wife, Julia, and their daughters, Ivanna (4) and Elayna (1). He says:

The last time I cried was last year when my dad passed away. Apart from that it's not something I tend to do. I'm not a regular crier.

It's not that I've been raised not to cry, although, I think as you grow up crying is said to be something of a weakness in men.

I would never have cried in front of my mates as it would have been uncool.

I certainly don't look down on anyone who cries, though.

At the end of the day it comes from emotion and if the moment takes you then why not? When my dad died it was a very emotional time, but so were the births of my daughters.

I didn't so much cry then, but feel a wave of emotion come over me. It's a human function and obviously serves a purpose of some description."

'Even a movie could make me cry'

Stewart Dickson (64) is an Alliance Party MLA. He lives in Greenisland with his wife Sandra. He says:

There's a serious side and a funny side to crying. The serious side is that Mind are absolutely right in what they're saying about crying. I think the classic relief of tension through crying is in grief. I have no problem in saying that in personal circumstances of grief that, of course, you cry.

People tend to joke and say that big men don't cry but, in fact, we do.

Aside from grief, there are other times when I find myself sniffing and wanting to shed a tear - if I catch a very emotional movie for example. Where I feel very proud of something then I might find myself welling up - an Ulster Rugby win or a piece of music like the Last Night Of The Proms - those things just feel good.

If a good cry helps to relieve tension, then it is a good thing and you generally feel better after a good cry.

I do remember the last time I cried - it was at the death of a close family friend earlier this summer.

I think seeing a man cry can be quite distressing for other men and women, but I don't think we should shy away from crying in public."

'Everybody does it and people who say they don't are lying'

Michael Conlon (23) is a Commonwealth gold medal-winning boxer who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. He lives in Belfast with his partner Shauna Olali and their six-month-old daughter Luisne. He says:

I would say I cry an awful lot - things get to me quite easily and that can turn into tears. Usually I cry because of frustration - I'm only 23, so I'm still a little immature. Everybody cries and people that say they don't are lying.

Crying is sometimes a release and sometimes it makes me man up. If I cry about something, it makes me realise there's no point in crying about it, and just get on with things.

The last time I cried was on the podium when I won gold in the European Championships in August. I do tend to cry at important things like when my daughter was born. I have lots of brothers and they always tortured me because I was the one who cried, even at stupid things.

I think it's good for people to cry as it can relieve stress. Previous generations thought people who cried were weak but now it's actually a sign of strength to cry. It's better not to hold it in."

Belfast Telegraph

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