Part of the stigma that still exists about mental health for men is that men have greater difficulty talking about their own struggles than women do. You may notice that online you see more talks, more blogs, and more online content on the subject from women than men.
Why does it seem to be more difficult for men to address their own mental health?
There are still some outdated stereotypes as a man suffering from depression; men as a source of Strength, dominating positions of power, the hunter-gatherer, the idea that strong and silent is alluring/attractive, the “show no weakness” bravado of heroes in our media.
In many of these macho images, there is little room for showing poor mental health. The men who are looked up to in society (famous, wealthy, successful, powerful) are not always ready to admit their struggles in public and that can leave the “average bloke” feeling uncertain about speaking out.
It is great that the tide is turning for men one by one, more of these men are coming forward and openly addressing mental health; footballers, politicians, actors, anyone can talk about it.
We do not consider that these men are weak or failing by speaking out, in fact, they are the brave ones.
They are the ones who are “manning up”
That expression is still often used for the wrong reasons, unfortunately. The concept that mental health can be conquered by simply acting more “like a man” is misguided.
Depression, anxiety, personality disorders and schizophrenia are no more or less difficult based on whether you got a Y chromosome in your DNA.
There has never been a better time to seek – and be accepted for – help with your mental wellbeing. Always remember that you can get better, the first step has to be yours.
If you are suffering from poor mental health, it might feel like the hardest step to take but it can lead to easier and better steps too.
Let’s consider the following?
• Talking to someone you trust, a close friend or family member, maybe even your doctor
• Considering why you find it uncomfortable asking for help and whether those reasons are actually stopping you from getting the support you need
• reading more about mental health and the varied guidance and advice that is easily accessible
• Attending A New Hope Peer support group which is based is salcoats North Ayrshire or the many groups that are circulating around the country that are free and open to anyone
• consider what are your weapons in this fight (i.e. the ways you combat poor mental health) – it could be anything from regular exercise to spending time with friends (for me, creative writing helps to lift me during the darker days)
• finding stories and case studies that will help you understand what other men have been through
• getting involved in the great campaigns and activities that raise awareness of mental health – we support the campaign State of mind which is about men’s mental health
Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health.
Keep in touch
Friends and your support network that you have engaged with with A New Hope.
We can all offer support and different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. We can all help keep you active, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.
Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.
Accept who you are
Some of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different.
Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.
Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
Care for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.
It’s important to take care of yourself and get the most from life. Mental health is about the way you think and feel and your ability to deal with ups and downs.
Making simple changes to how you live doesn’t need to cost a fortune or take up loads of time, but it can make a big difference.
A New Hope Peer, Support and social group.
Please join us once every fortnight.
Ayrshire , KA21 5LS
The next group takes place on Tuesday 15 October.