Over the phone, Moses Gomes-Santos is trying to figure out what it means to “man up”.
“Does it mean you’re not allowed to have any sort of emotion, or that you’re not allowed to show emotion?”, says the producer and star of Lost in Oblivion, a short film that depicts the descent of a man affected by mental health and alcohol problems.
Is it a term aimed at toughening up innocent, doe-eyed schoolboys? Or is it a red-flag reminder that society still suggests “real men” should be void of emotion?
“Telling any young man to keep his emotions in breaks them down even more,” Gomes-Santos says.
Think back to the stunning World Cup moment that brought Gazza to tears on the pitch in 1990. The image made front-page news and the world lost their rag at a man bawling his eyes out. The horror!
It’s safe to say that boys are, on the whole, conditioned to hold it in, tell no one and move on. Whether that’s at school, by their parents, or via the representations of masculinity that they see on TV.
But somewhere down the line, it’ll catch up with a huge proportion of us. The stats don’t lie – 12.5% of men living in the UK are suffering from a mental health disorder, while suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 35.
This, coupled with friends close to him who were suffering from mental health problems, was enough to shake Gomes-Santos into creating a poignant film.
“A number of people in my life have suffered from mental health [problems] – the one closest to me turned into an alcoholic,” he says.
While not personally struggling with mental health problems, Gomes-Santos wanted to raise awareness of things that go on inside the mind of a mental health sufferer for those that are unaware. He also noticed a distinction in his own community that reinforced his sense of urgency.
“I don’t like breaking it down to race, but I’m around a lot of black men [and] I’ve realised mental illness is very hidden within our society,” he says, “Young men think they have to be powerful and strong and hold their emotions in.
For anyone watching the film, Gomes-Santos wants you to know, first and foremost, that speaking up is the most important step forward in combating the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s also the first step to receiving help.
“I like to believe humans are supportive of each other,” he says. “Even a conversation can help somebody get through it. Even if it’s to a close friend, it helps get it off your chest. [Combatting] mental illness is all about talking to someone and getting that help.”
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected]samaritans.org. You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting mind.org.uk
Starring Moses Gomes-Santos Story by Jaida Saint Gomes Directed by Nejc Miljak Grade Tilen Bačar