This is a guest post written by Amy Madden for the official blog of the Mental Health Awareness Project. The views and opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of those involved with the Mental Health Awareness Project. We are publishing this guest post in hopes that you may find it helpful or informative.
Since I started my mental health awareness page “All Ears” over a year ago, one of my biggest personal goals was to try and keep the images that I use as neutral as I can. I noticed quite early on that a lot of mental health posts are aimed more at women, with the images and content that are used. This felt to me as though males were being treated as a minority, but with almost 2/3rds of suicides being male, I knew that I wanted to be able to reach out to absolutely everyone.
Forty percent of men will not talk to anyone at all about their mental health problems.
I am happy to say that there are so many inspirational males in my life, who openly talk to me about their mental health and motivate me day in, day out, some of whom have selflessly shared their experience more in-depth with me for the purpose of this post. But, I have definitely noticed a more prominent reluctance in males to start the initial conversation about their mental health.
Research suggests that this could be for a number of reasons. Societal expectations and traditional gender roles being one of them. Men are expected to take on high pressure jobs and basically just deal with that stress and pressure. From a young age, males are taught to mask their emotions and “man up” instead of crying, which basically teaches them that a functional, necessary emotion is “wrong.”
Forty percent of men will not talk to anyone at all about their mental health problems, which causes added stresses and pressures, and a build up of emotional trauma. Because of this, men are more likely to engage in harmful coping mechanisms, such as drugs or alcohol, which many people don’t realise is a form of self-harming.
I then asked the question, why don’t men want to talk about their problems?
Some men may believe what they are feeling is “wrong” due to this learned perspective from a young age. They may also be worried about how others will treat them.
One man shared that, after he was diagnosed with depression, people started to share less with him through fear that he wouldn’t be able to deal with their problems.
Or, as the majority of the males I spoke to shared: they did not understand what was happening to them, which makes it really hard to start the conversation, because they didn’t know what it was they needed to talk about, or who even would be best to talk to.
This boils down to a major issue: lack of education.
Amazingly, come September, every school, college and alternative provision will be offered training through a series of workshops as part of the Link Programme, with the most appropriate member of staff from each put forward to take part alongside mental health specialists. This is designed to improve partnerships with professional NHS mental health services, raise awareness of mental health concerns, and improve referrals to specialist help when needed.
I spoke with the inspiring male who is running “Behind the Smile,” (a mental health clothing range, worth having a look at) who shared some important words with me about mental health and stigma.
“Stigma needs to be stopped for everyone. It is damaging enough for a person to have a mental
illness, but then to have a label and the stigma that comes with that label surrounding you, feels like
a constant reminder. Labels such as “weak minded” or “dramatic” can seriously effect a person and
damage the healing process.”
It seems to me, that it is important for males to recognise what might be signs of a mental illness, and to accept that it really is okay to not be okay. One male described this as feeling mentally exhausted. It is okay to ask for help! You do not have to just ”get used to it.”
One man shared how he believes that the stigma is slowly but surely changing, with the help of groups such as “Andy’s Man Club,” ensuring that males have the power to seek help when they need it, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
Never be afraid to seek help
So please, whatever gender you are, if you need some help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your life will be worth living one day –- trust me.