Schools in Australia have set up a mental health workshop in an attempt to help young boys tackle issues related to suicide and toxic masculinity.
The workshops set up by the organization Tomorrow Man have already visited many public high schools around New South Wales. It uses exercises to open up the floor for students to talk and the boys are encouraged to paint each other’s nails and talk about their feelings.
While nail polish is often associated with femininity, Tomorrow Man tries to get the students to realize it’s “just paint.”
“As part of the build-up to this activity, we get the young lads to show us their hands. Often you can tell a lot from someone’s hands,” Tomorrow Man’s Josh wrote on Instagram.
“One lad had a massive pair of mitts, callused and permanently smeared with dirt; the hands of a farmer. We painted his nails bright pink. He told the group how uncomfortable he would feel with painted nails. He was heading into the markets on the weekend and was sure he’d get some weird looks.”
Josh explained how the boy broke down in tears after opening up about what his father had said to him – telling him he was becoming the man of the house and how proud it made him feel.
“This was tough,” he continued. “I thought about how much the strong and silent stereotype robs men from sharing these poetically beautiful moments, and each blokes epic stories. I have the opportunity to reassure young men that it’s more than okay to open up and show emotion, and lucky for me I also get to see and hear all the benefits of this.”
Those who participate in the exercise are asked to see if they can keep the polish on for 2 weeks. They are also encouraged to cry and express emotions they usually try to hide.
And what makes this even better is these workshops aren’t just for students. Men of all ages can participate.
The social media site said: “For the lads, the Australian stereotype of stoicism, toughness, and hard yakka fits their lifestyle, it is needed for their survival. But what is also important, for all men, is the emotional range and the ability to switch out of that stereotype depending on the situation.
“As we left the workshop, it moved me to tears shaking hands with some of the toughest and roughest farming hands, calloused throughout, and see the nail polish on the other side.
“Challenging the ‘Man Code’ isn’t about throwing away the great parts of the Australian stereotype, but instead expanding it.”
Tomorrow Man runs a variety of different exercises, spurring men on to take the time to open up and share how they are feeling to tackle the stigma behind mental health.