(MEN)tal Health.

Mate, you just need to man up!

As I am sure most of you know, mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us in our life times… That is a pretty scary statistic. What is even more scary? Women are twice as likely to receive help for mental health issues and illnesses than men… (and we wonder why suicide is STILL the biggest killer of men under the age of 35!?) Put it this way – I have around 1000 friends on my Facebook profile, from all over the world. I’d say a good 60% of them are male; taking that into account, around 150+ of them will experience mental health issues in their life times. That is a HUGE amount of people. Devastatingly, more than 1/3 of these lovely guys could end their lives, due to inadequate mental health treatment and the mental illnesses they experience.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER –

  • As I was saying, mental illnesses are very common and can have an impact on anyones lives regardless of gender, physical health, race, sexuality, etc.
  • EVERYONE has mental health, yes absolutely everyone.
  • Mental health, like physical health is a spectrum from ‘good’ to ‘poor’.
  • Just because many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances it doesn’t mean females are the only sufferers. It may seem obvious, but too many people forget that WE ALL HAVE HORMONES.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health and go hand in hand, as part of a healthy life style.

There are many misconceptions around men having mental health illnesses. As a campaigner against mental health stigma, some of these are so preposterous that they literally make my skin crawl – others I understand are just down to pure naivety.

  • If a fella has a mental illness they are ‘weak’ for showing their emotions and having such an illness makes you ‘less of a man’…

Most of the brave male friends and acquaintances I have spoken to have fear of facing stigma from this disgusting misconception. Stigma is DEFINITELY shrinking, but frustratingly, too large of a proportion of society seem to brand any man who is open about their feelings and mental health as a ‘pussy’ or ‘being weak’. Let me be completely clear here, I know I am not the only one to think that a man who can talk about his feelings and be a little more sensitive, appears so much more manly than a guy who keeps it all to himself. This misconception is likely to come from your buddy, maybe even a male relative, who means the best, BUT constantly makes you regret emotionally confiding in them by telling you to ‘man up’, ‘get a grip’ or tell you that ‘life isn’t that bad’ or asking ‘what do you have to be upset about?’.

  • Only Women self-harm and have eating disorders…

Self-harming exists in all gender identities. Male self-harm is at an all time high and is almost at a 50/50 split with females. Although eating disorders statistically affect more females than males, they are also across the board and can impact anyone, at any time. No one chooses to have these illnesses and no one takes the decision to harm themselves lightly, whether it be substance or drug abuse, cutting, pinching, hair pulling or putting yourself in risky and triggering situations. It’s a release and in NO WAY is a “cry for attention”.

  • Men only face mental health issues through drug and alcohol abuse…

Statistically, men are only slightly more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, although there is a link between this and mental health issues, it is by no means the only cause. So many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain, some are hereditary, others are caused by triggering life events such as abuse, failure, grief, change, hardships, social standings and economic backgrounds can all have a negative impact on your mental health.

  • Talk therapy? Sounds like circle time to me…

Going to therapy is possibly one of the most daring things anyone can do in attempt to turn their mental state around, laying yourself emotionally bare to someone you’ve never talk to if you had more of a choice is hardly appealing to anyone. There are many types of therapy, but those that work best, generally are those that allow someone to talk through what they’re experiencing to make sense of it in their own heads. Being open doesn’t make you weak.

  • Suicide is an easy way out…

No one contemplating suicide takes that decision lightly. Having tried myself, I can 100% vouch for that. Many men who suffer with mental illness experience extreme amounts of guilt, feeling that because they are feeling the they way that are, that they’re unworthy and a disappointment to their friends and family. That, because they can’t face the day and get into work, that everyone would be better without them? Not being able to accomplish their dreams, so they’re a write off? OBVIOUSLY, this is never the case but when you’re in the wrong mindset, that’s exactly how it feels. Suicide may stop things getting any worse- but it brutally stops the chance of things ever getting any better.

  • Mental health leave is for slackers and is a complete cop out…

I think this is sooooo ridiculous! Say, you’ve broken your ribs, you’re in too much pain to get out of bed so you’ve had to call in sick? What if you’re so low that moving makes you vomit and the idea of getting out of bed brings you to tears? What if all you see is emptiness and you know you need help? Why not call in sick then? It’s just as painful and crippling. Physical illness is no more important that mental illness.

  • Medications are for people who can’t sort their own issues out…

This irritates me endlessly, so i’ll keep it sort and simple- if you’re diabetic and you need medications to get by and live, what is wrong with taking medications to help with mental illnesses?? I may just be one woman, but I know a lot about mental health stigma and have a lot of experience in this field. It may not count for much but you’re never alone and PLEASE never be afraid to speak out. Getting help is more difficult than anything you may ever experience, but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. A problem shared is often a problem halved and you should never worry about being a burden to anyone who cares about you. Recovery is always possible. You can never be replaced.

At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to emotions. Always be respectful; everyone is going through their own battles, so try not to be a dickhead. If you guys can take ANYTHING from this, let it be to talk. You have no idea how just a text can turn someone’s day around.

If you’re worried about a friend, let them know you’re there- take them out for a pint, go play cards, darts, go to a gig or for a coffee. All of these things are so simple, there is really no excuse to leave anyone out of contact if they mean something to you.

Useful UK links…

http://www.rethink.org
http://www.samaritans.org
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

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