The notion of creating an awareness day to bring men’s mental health out of the shadows was one I’d been mulling over for some time in late 2013, early 2014. Although the concept seemed simple enough, I was looking for some angle or hook to which I could attach the proclamation of a Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The idea being I would “piggy-back” on the timing of an existing awareness week or month to leverage promotional opportunities.
First came the inevitable consultation with a subject matter expert on all things male mental health: Dr. Google. No matter what combination of keyword search strings I used, no relevant results came up to suggest that there had ever been, anywhere or at anytime, a day specifically dedicated to raising awareness around men’s mental health, broadly speaking. Obviously, for my purposes, this was a good thing. But to what tree could I hang my shiny new ornament?
What I did come across was International Men’s Health Week, held the week immediately preceding Father’s Day. I’d never heard of it. If this week was ever marked in Canada in any official capacity, I found no evidence of it at the time. Nevertheless, I’d found my tree. And from a purely personal perspective, there could be no better timing to pull out a Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day ornament than the week leading up to Father’s Day.
Why? My first official diagnosis of a major depressive episode – with an underlying unspecified mood disorder – came on the Monday before Father’s Day 2012, resulting in an immediate and abrupt work stoppage. ‘This is SO perfect!’, I thought to myself. What a great way to take the ‘anniversary’ of my worst moment of adversity, and flip it on its head in a positive move for mental health advocacy. Not to mention the significant impact my illness and subsequent recovery had on my views of what Fatherhood was supposed to mean.
So the timing was more or less nailed down. But of all the days of the week, I wondered, do I just pick one at random? The Monday, for the personal connection? Or another day that might hold more symbolic meaning for men who silently struggle with mental health issues?
Back to Dr. Google. After some poking around the Web, I found it. I had my Eureka! moment. Henceforth, Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day would be held on the Tuesday immediately preceding Father’s Day. All thanks to the recent Blu-Ray release (at the time) of Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World.
No, not because I felt that living with depression was tantamount to living in a Dark World… though it most certainly is. Rather, the movie got me thinking about Norse mythology.
It turns out that the weekday Tuesday finds its origins in a (now) lesser-known Norse God called Týr — or Tīw. Over the course of time, Tīw’s Day evolved into the Tuesday we know today.
Why choose Tīw’s Day to mark men’s mental health? In short, Tīw was the original Norse God of War. Justice, Honour, Bravery, Courage in Combat and Self-Sacrifice were all culturally-defined attributes of masculinity ascribed to Tīw.
Having sacrificed his hand to the jaws of the Giant Wolf Fenrir for the greater good, he is the only Norse God depicted as being “less than whole”. Yet, in spite of this physical limitation, a crucial one for a war god, he continued to thrive and triumph, demonstrating true resilience.
And that’s how I see men struggling with mental health issues. We feel “less than whole” when living with anxiety, depression, operational stress injuries or any other mental illness. And yet, every single day we show bravery, courage and resilience in battling our brains.
We are the embodiment of Tīw’s Warrior Spirit.
More on the Tīw mythology can be found in this piece from The Art of Manliness website.