This is a blog that I’ve wanted to write from the beginning but it’s hard to discuss especially when I myself am not a man and it is also hard to find men who want to express their feelings. I’ve waited for guys to come forward and share their stories or opinions but this topic still such a taboo even though it’s recently been bought more to light due to celebrity deaths, statements on TV and social media overall. According to Safeline “76% of suicides are committed by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 in the UK” (www.safeline.org.uk – worth a read!). In addition, in the UK, 12.5% of men suffer from common mental health disorders (mentshealthforum.org.uk, 2017). These are drastic statistics; so why has men’s mental health only recently come to light in the last few years?
Passed from generation to generation men have been told what their role in society is, how to feel, how to treat others, how to carry themselves but this has led to suppression and it becoming natural for women to be seen as the sensitive, insecure gender in comparison to men. This is not okay. Times are changing and we need to support each other and adapt to these changes. Mental health is a silent killer whether physically, mentally or emotionally and speaking openly about this is the first step to making an awareness.
Below are statements from brave men who wanted to come forward and share their experiences and opinions:
-“Men are solution-based animals, talking about our feelings rarely helps us resolve the traumas we are experiencing, we want a route to getting out of it. Men’s problems right now stem from a lack of a strong support network which provides us with opportunities to progress in the areas of our lives which we have neglected or are suffering”.
-“This blog is a good thing, honestly you need to try and get through to young kids. I’ve lost a few friends over the years and there’s no one to talk to. You don’t want to talk to family because they will worry and send you to live with your nan or something. You can’t go to any of these charities or organisations because as soon as you tell them you lost your friend to a stabbing it feels like they don’t understand. There needs to be help for young men out there”.
-“I think that Men, in general, need to be more honest about it and stop being so dismissive of it too – check up on your friends if they’re feeling down or acting unusual because it could be a lot worse than it seems on the surface. Side note – being from an Eastern European background our culture is very dismissive of men’s mental well-being and any signs of mental unrest is seen as weakness, and we’re usually told to ‘man up’, which more often than not worsens the problem more than it does solve it. And in our culture, mental health issues aren’t really recognised as real conditions but just ‘phases’”.
-“It’s something I personally struggled with for 6 years and I felt lost, angry, alone & very sad throughout my time with depression. You feel you can’t speak to anyone about this either that you’re afraid to or you think it will pass by itself, this is not the case speaking out about it with anyone not just a doctor or a therapist can help immensely. For me, my sister helped me throughout a lot of it. For me it wasn’t seeking a therapist it was speaking to my doctor and taking being advised to take Citalopram. This helped me a lot with all my issues I had. I also started at the Gym which I think personally really helps, it keeps your mind straight & focused, releases stress and motivates you; not just for me but I believe this helps for everyone generally regardless of depression. So if you are struggling with this and you have thought about seeking help please do so. So that we can fight these issues together. Don’t be afraid”.
–“Men are raised to focus on their physical health and foster attitudes that society accept as manly; many of which contribute to poor abilities to deal with problems of the mental variety”.
-“Going through depression as a man isn’t something that’s often spoken about because men are inherently seen as strong/unemotional beings in society. I grew up without a prominent father figure and was often told to not cry or feel sad because I’m supposed to be strong for my mother and my siblings, as I’m ‘the man of the house’, this phrase stuck with me as it held so much weight. To me the phrase ‘man of the house’ basically means in hat context ‘you can’t be sad’ it was hard to not feel some kind of way about that, ironically, I got down and with the pressure of being ‘man of the house’ my feelings were never brought up and put aside for a long time until I finally broke, there have been times I’ve really thought about ending it, though, with a few people supporting me I got through it. Hopefully, we can change how sensitive this topic is for men”.
Some reading the above its clear their views on the topic are very similar. Lack of support and the need to break gender stereotype. This is coming from guys that you would pass every day and not once think to have any kind of issues. They continue with life, socialise, date, go to work and carry on; this is proof that you never know who is suffering or which men in your life come under 12.5%.
As a society, we need to do better and understand that the black dog exists. To understand what I mean by the black dog I advise you to watch the video below, but there are many simple things we can all do. Break the taboo on mental health and get talking; a simple hug can go along way, look into the hug movement on Instagram, they are spreading awareness of the positivity from holding someone close. Sometimes I walk around London and see people giving out free hugs; hugging reduces stress, improves self-esteem and boosts Oxycontin levels (also known as the love hormone).
Check on your friends especially your strong one every now and then and ask if they’re okay, hold meaningful group chats and social gatherings. Maybe it’ll be nice for a group to chill occasionally and talk about life instead of going on a binge every Saturday night. Make use of the research and charities out there. So far in this blog I’ve referenced different websites/organisations, the information is out there and so is the help. I am also available. This is something I am passionate about and could speak on until the end of time; I have an open-door policy on life and can provide that confidentially support you need. No one should be made to feel alone; sometimes it’s hard to speak to people close to you due to embarrassment or judgement but I can assure you there’s nothing embarrassing about opening up, if anything its courageous and inspirational.
I could talk about the ‘treatments’ such as the different therapy, counselling and medications but that is another story and something best to hear about from your GP or a Mental Health Organisation directly. I got help on an off chance; I went to see my GP for a completely different reason, made a ‘throw away’ comment and she picked up on it straight away. The GP gave me the information booklet for SLaM IAPT; I didn’t know what it was until I went on the website and I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t think the comment I made was that deep but she managed to see that everything wasn’t as okay as I was trying to make out. This just proves how important listening is. If you pick up on something someone says and you think, hmm that doesn’t sound right and you’re not comfortable asking or digging deeper, just point them in the right direction. GP’s aren’t just for prescribing medication and referring you to Hospital, they do provide advice and professional, confidentially assistance.
As I said previously no one should be made to feel alone. This blog may be about Men’s mental health but we all need to work together to make sure our men are okay. Be a good support system, be a good friend, partner, neighbour because you never know how your comments or actions can affect someone.
Thank you to all the brave guys who shared their views and stories for this blog x