BBC news caught my attention this morning. No, it wasn’t Louise Minchin (secret crush maybe…) but it was the announcement that the British Government had appointed a minister for Suicide Prevention, and was providing funding to the tune of £1.8 million to the Samaritans organisation. A good way to start World Mental Health Day, and it’s a step in the right direction. One step. It’s not enough, but at least it is some form of recognition of a problem. Not about to get into a political debate today, so let us just be grateful for this action.
So much communication and social media activity on Mental Health! I hope some of it sticks in peoples minds, and that they are encouraged. I hope that there is another chunk of the stigma that prevents open, normal discussion on our mental health being chipped away. As 25% of us will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point, we should accept that it is part of everyday life as opposed to a strange cousin that’s hidden in the attic. There are well worn clichés comparing physical and mental health, but the reason they are worn is because they are the truth! We all know how to help our mates if they have, I don’t know, Man Flu. They need to go to bed for several days whilst receiving sympathy, chicken soup and hot toddies (with the good whiskey) and access to your Sky Go app or Netflix account. That’s easy. But if your mate is anxious, depressed or, worst case, suicidal what do you do? Not so straightforward is it?
It starts with a conversation. And listening. And sitting. It might involve a lot of these two things. For men the hard thing is starting this conversation. Standard answers include :
• I’m fine
• I’ll be ok tomorrow
• Nothing to worry about
• These things happen
• Don’t want to add to your problems
Just a few of the things we might say in order to evade what we consider a potentially embarrassing show of emotion, or vulnerability.
OK, I’m going to keep saying this, and I don’t give a shit if you get bored of me saying it.
IT’S OK TO TALK ! YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN ! YOU ARE NOT AN EMBARRASSMENT ! YOU ARE NO LESS OF A MAN FOR TALKING ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ! YOU ARE STRONG !
That felt good. Imagine how good it would feel to open up about the difficulties you are facing and are avoiding discussing !
I read this this morning, from an article in an Aussie news organisation who are fronting a campaign on ‘The Silent Killer’.
While much of the focus of suicide prevention has been on those diagnosed with a mental illness, around 80 per cent of male suicides are not linked to any mental health diagnosis according to Glen Poole, Development Officer at the Australian Men’s Health Forum and founder of the Stop Male Suicide project.
Instead many men are simply struggling to deal with different types of life crises including relationship breakdown, work issues, financial stress, health and other issues.
He believes the key is to focus on helping men to deal with those life crises.
Gotcha4Life co-founder Gus Worland agreed and said having someone to talk to when times got tough, had helped him to manage stressful or emotional situations in the past.
“You’ve got to have someone in your life that you can talk to, warts and all,” he said. “Someone you can have a discussion with about anything and know that you won’t be judged. That person may not have an answer but you will have their heart and their ear, and it will allow you to get stuff off your chest.”
Relationships. Work. Money. Health. Four things that are common to us all. They can all go pear-shaped. Indeed a few of those are hitting me right now. Dealing with these fundamental parts of our life is challenging but no reason to be embarrassed about talking about them. I am not going to deny that I have been through a tonne of crap over the last few years and the thing that has helped me through the challenges thrown at me is talking. Spending time sharing how I feel with friends.
Also happy to share that I am currently taking anti-depressants and seeing a therapist. See? It’s that easy to admit to a supposed weakness. It’s a stigma that MUST be broken it we are to become the the best that we can be as humans.
When I meet with the guys at Blokes and Black Dogs meetings, this also helps. These meetings are SO beneficial. It’s a safe space for men to share what they are facing in their lives. It may not solve all the problems that you are facing, but it will help to get it off your chest and stop bottling it up. Let the emotion out. Ease the pressure and don’t explode. One way or another, that will not be pretty.
Talking in a safe space – what’s the worst that can happen?
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Expat Expo – Blokes and Black Dogs will be there