Mental health awareness week is 9th -15th May, an annual event where there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. As someone who is very passionate about learning more about mental health and ways of improving it, I started to reflect on what I wanted to share on my blog about it this year.
There is a damaging stigma around men’s mental health- men don’t discuss enough about the topic, toxic masculinity, heavy societal expectations for men, etc. In actual reality, mental health affects a large number of people daily, in particular men of all ages. So, I wanted to do my bit and raise awareness about the topic – from a man’s perspective.
I sat down with Robert from Purpose Led, a community which is centered around helping people develop their mindset, challenge their thinking and inspiring them to action, to discuss the topic of mental health and wellbeing.
What does mental health mean to you?
“I see mental health in the same way you do physical health, as if you go the gym to work on it, it’s all about looking after the mind. Mental health is equally important to physical health. Without looking after your mental health, it can really have an affect of us. So, in simpler terms, mental health is all about looking after the mind and it’s something that is very important if you want to go far in life- if you don’t look after your mental health it can prohibit you from achieving your potential. Everything comes from the mental, mental health is important and I’m really happy our generation is taking it more seriously.”
Why is there a stigma around mental health for men?
“I believe there are so many men that try and impress other men, so they don’t want to appear weaker. By them speaking out about how they feel mentally, they appear weaker in front of the male eyes. Also in relationships, some men feel that by exposing their feelings some women may take advantage of them. So, I think that is why there is a stigma. Overall men assumed to be strong, leaders etc and stereotypically you would not associate that with opening up and being vulnerable, which is sad in reality.
So many men have been programmed to believe that if we talk about these things, we appear weaker. It’s a sad belief as there is freedom in vulnerability and freedom in accountability. When you speak to people about these things, one, you realise you are not alone and two, you don’t know who you can help by being vulnerable.”
Do you feel comfortable talking about your mental health – to your male friends?
“I am very fortunate that I can talk to my boys about mental health, I feel for me it’s not in general for all men, but in terms of my circle, we are all believers in Christ so naturally through that, vulnerability is a big part of our journey in Christ. Christ taught us to be vulnerable and to share your burdens with one another. When one of us is feeling down we will talk about it openly.
I am very fortunate as a lot of men don’t have that, so when I speak to my friends, I make sure to ask them “how are you really feeling?” At first, they are a bit shocked, but afterward they open up, and even say “oh wow someone is going to judge them” but I encourage them to open up and be themselves.
Overall, I am thankful that me and my boys can talk about these things.”
What is your opinion on therapy?
“My opinion on therapy is that it is essential – so essential, we go to the doctors for physical matters, why not the same for mental matters? Therapy is very important; I even go as far as, and I say this in my humble opinion – even recommend going to therapy before relationships, just to deal with all the traumas and past baggage you may have, I feel it’s something we all go through. We don’t want to be projecting our pains onto others so I would definitely say it’s something I am open to, it’s something I agree with and it’s a profession I highly respect. Long may it continue, and long may more men continue to go to these things, expose their thoughts and open up, it is essential in this journey we can’t do it by ourselves.”
Why do you think suicide rates are high amongst men?
“I feel a big reason is because men don’t have anyone to talk to, if they do, they only talk about futile short-term stuff (money, etc) the truth is because men feel they are all alone, and rather than opening up they just deal with it themselves. Therapy is stigmatised for men to go to, and they can’t go to their boys to talk about it so who do they talk to about it? Themselves.
The mind can be your best friend or your worse enemy so I understand why, but I hope and pray more men can open up and speak to each other about it”
What do you think needs to be done to improve mental health for men?
“It has to start from grassroots, going to more secondary schools and talking about this stuff. Having PSHE lessons, similar to how they teach sex education in school, they should do the same about mental health. Of course, male and females go through the same problems, but the specific problems that males go through, if they have someone come in from early to talk about then it is instilled in them from the beginning that it its okay to be open, its okay to cry.
Teaching boys form early, and emphasise its okay to cry, be sad and to open up!”