“Ha, men’s mental health, what a joke, just get over it isn’t it?”
What I might have been told many years ago/some people still get told across the globe. I still think some people I know want to say this to me whenever I’m struggling, but they know I’ll bite their head off with a load of jargon about mental health awareness, suicide and breaking gender norms etc.
I’m Nick, Director & Youth Involvement Lead at EYMH, but am writing in my guise as ‘expert by experience’ of mental illness.
It’s ‘Men’s health month’ this November so I’m writing this blog to highlight mental health in men. If I’m being honest it’s the first year I’ve ever heard of it. I was always aware that November was the month everyone attempted to grow a moustache, even those who end up with just some fluff above their lip, in order to raise awareness and well-deserved funds for prostate cancer charities. A cause I rose funds for whilst travelling South America many years ago.
On conducting a bit of research before writing this I noticed that the world’s leading movement/charity for the aforementioned moustache growing, ‘Movember’, was now also aiming to tackle men’s mental health as well. This was the first I’d heard about it and I am always a bit sceptical when charities try conducting work in a completely different field. That being said, I have reached out to offer my expertise both as an expert by the experience of mental ill-health and as an expert by profession.
You know, we men have always had a history of being crap at looking after ourselves. I always remember my dad not wanting to go to the doctor, even when he could barely walk. His and the generation before it had that ‘get on with it’ and ‘stay calm and … bla bla bla’. Which translated as ignore your pain and suffering and just do what people expect of you! Genuinely, remember someone breaking their ankle playing rugby and being told ‘carry on your fine’ and so he did!!! Thankfully my dad’s attitude to both physical and mental health have changed vastly, maybe because of all our conversations about my mental health over the years, so that he does now go to the doctors if he’s ill or injures himself and will talk briefly about his own mental health with me when we chat.
I am diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Clinical Depression. A fact I found out about a few weeks ago. Another fact I found out is that I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder for almost 5 years and Clinical Depression for about 2, but only got told a few weeks ago! I was told ‘it’s just not that big a deal for adults’….*rolly eye face..*.
This all being said, my main focus and trumpet blowing for men’s mental health is SUICIDE. Quite literally the silent killer that ripples out like a nuclear bomb, causing suffering and loss amongst friends, colleagues and loved ones for months and years after, something that can be avoided! I’ve always seen myself as a bit of a mystery to most men, as I was a punk and a rugby player, I cried ALL THE TIME and as an adult, never had an issue with expressing myself verbally or creatively to the benefit of my mental health (for childhood, check out my Angry Little Welshman page for more of me).
I’ve never had suicide ideation, but do get a feeling of “what is the point” and hopelessness, based on my diagnosis above, that does make me think about it, but never with the intention of completing it…if that makes sense.
As I continue to bounce upwards in recovering, if I had to give some small bits of advice its this:
To those who identify as male. TALK! People do care and will listen, don’t bottle it up and let it erupt like a volcano, whatever you do.
To those who identify as an ally. Ask the hard questions, are you okay? Are you feeling quite depressed right now? Are you wanting to not live anymore? Yes, it may be a bit awkward but it will save lives.
Stay Healthy, mentally.