MEN are in trouble.

So says Clayton Burke, who will be giving a talk on the crisis of masculinity next month.

Clayton cites male suicide rates – suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK – spiralling rates of male prisoners, depression, alcoholism, porn addiction, drug use and mental illness, alongside issues such as male rage, a general sense of entitlement, misogyny and homophobia as examples of the crisis for men and society at large, due to stereotyped gender roles.

“We seem to be building to a crescendo and it’s worrying,” says the 35-year-old father of two from Alresford.

“It keeps coming back to the gender roles that we play into which just don’t work.

“Many men, me included once, don’t understand the constraints of gender. It’s not working for women, transgender people, other minority groups or men in general.”

Clayton, who will be speaking about masculinity at a Wire Wool event at the Railway Inn in Winchester on June 3, has had, and continues to have, his own struggles due to trying to live up to stereotypes of masculinity and discomfort at the sense of falling short of them.

Having been involved in a serious car accident at the age of 11 he suffered post traumatic stress disorder, but felt pressure to keep his mental struggles to himself.

“I didn’t talk to anyone about it,” he says.

“I didn’t think that I was allowed to, or that it would be welcome. I had panic attacks, nightmares and when I closed my eyes I could hear the noise of the crash, but I didn’t feel I could talk about it, as a male.”

It wasn’t until he was 25, and was still struggling a lot, that he mentioned it to someone, who then offered him trauma therapy.

At around the same time he became friends with an older man, who, he says, modelled that you can do traditional ‘male’ things, but also be vulnerable, a feminist, and honest about your feelings.

This was a huge turning point for Clayton, not only in dealing with his mental health issues, but also in beginning to reflect on what it is to be a man in modern day society.

He began researching and educating himself on the subject, going to men’s groups, reading widely, taking classes and attending talks, both to learn more and to change his own attitudes and behaviour.

His passion for the subject was galvanized when he had his two daughters, now aged five and eight, and began to think more about the world that they were growing up in.

Clayton has recently begun training with the Good Men Project, which sends men into schools and colleges to talk to boys and young men about equality, patriarchy, privilege and the effect on their own lives and others.

“Mentorship schemes are really exciting,” he says.

“It’s about making people aware that they don’t need to stay within the constraints of gender roles.

“Men do need to talk more and be more vulnerable.

“It’s important to teach boys that they need to use their privilege in society to help other people, but to do that without teaching them to feel shame about being male.

“I do have some shame about being a man.”

Clayton admits that he still struggles at times with the sense that he is not living up to masculine stereotypes.

“It’s absolutely a work in progress,” he says.

“I can find myself buying into it, and then have to check myself. I can find myself beginning to feel bad. These stereotypes are so strong.

“For instance, I am a stay at home dad and a home educator. I work at the weekend as a chef, but my wife is the main breadwinner, and sometimes I start to feel bothered about that.

“At times, I’ve suffered from a body image problem. Lots of men suffer this, and feel shame and anxiety about it, due to the beauty ideals that we can’t live up to.

“If I were to buy a men’s fitness magazine, I would start to feel really bad about myself, because I just don’t look like that.”

Clayton adds that talking about a crisis in masculinity might seem a bit self-indulgent, when men are in a position of privilege in society.

But he adds that there is a real crisis, and not only for men, but also for society at large, arising from the narrow proscribed gender role for men.

“The statistics are there, on male alcoholism, homelessness, fighting in town centres, drugs, men in hospital because they don’t seek treatment until too late.

“Going back to suicide, it’s the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, but I don’t see society doing anything about that.

“If there was something else that was killing men at that rate, like something in the water supply, there would be a huge public outcry, but it seems like it’s seen as just how it is.

“People need to talk to other people about what’s going on for them, to regulate their feelings, but instead so many men just go and drink six pints, say nothing, and bury their feelings, which then can come out as violence or suicide.”

He adds: “I had alcohol dependency in the past. It’s very common. Alcohol is linked to mental illness, depression and suicide but it’s seen as acceptable to drink, and drink hard.

“I’m not anti-alcohol, but it’s worrying seeing people using it to regulate their emotions.

“I bought into that whole persona of hard drinking, staying up the latest. It was part of my ego armour. I didn’t realise what I was doing to myself.”

Clayton feel that the best way forward is to model alternative ways of being to gender stereotypes - to be open, vulnerable, not to feel compelled to be a leader, competitive, to have all the answers, to stoical and physically dominant.

It is his hope that this will help more men to shake off the limitations of who they ‘should’ be and be more comfortable with being who they are.

“It’s really important to be open and vulnerable,” he says.

“I need that myself, but it gives other people the permission to do it too, and that’s just so important.”

* Clayton Burke is speaking alongside author Dave Pickering, who will be giving a talk entitled “What about the Men?” at the Railway Inn, Winchester, on June 3. For more information, visit