Men’s Mental Health: We Need to Talk.
In an ever-growing epidemic, negative mental health in men is on the rise and so is awareness around this however, is there enough being done to help those come forward and speak out? Statistically speaking, Mental Health Issues are higher in women with around 1 in 5 being diagnosed with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression whilst men’s statistics still only sit around 1 in 8. Is there really a difference in mental health between genders or are we missing the mark here?
‘73% of adults who ‘go missing’ are men and 87% of those sleeping rough are men. Looking at the prison system, the forum says men make up 95% of the prison population, with 72% of male prisoners suffering from two or more mental disorders... 78% of suicides are by men and for under 35 suicide is the biggest cause of death.’Counselling Directory
Such percentages are hard to ignore once you make the connection that perhaps males mental health isn’t being reported as it should. Many are suffering in silence unsure of who to turn to, what help might be available and the possible repercussions of speaking up.
One man has decided to share his story in the hope that it may help others to speak up and get the help they need:
“I am 30 years old and have an invisible friend”
You see its not and imaginary friend because they don’t really exist. But my friend is real; even if you can’t see them…They are there. Some days they come and bother me and others I bother them, are you sure you can’t see them? Look closer, they are in every in every photo and behind every social media post. Meet my friend – Depression.
I have revisited my old memories to try and identify an obvious situation or event that may have triggered why I am the way I am or am I being naive to think it is one given event? The only thing I’ve come across that I think has some relevance is that when I was around 5 or so our family home was burgled whilst we all slept and since that day I hated sleep, I always thought it would happen again.
During my late teens/early twenties I was confident and I liked who I was, I wasn’t body conscious, I had close group of friends, I was out most weekends being young and naive, everything I should be. It was around this time I started to work in a local pub kitchen which I ultimately became trapped in for the next 8 years – I didn’t realise the damage and toll that it took on me and it is the centre of a lot of regret and animosity.
It was unsociable hours so I began to see less of friends and family. I didn’t have a Christmas Day off in 7 years. The shifts had no structure so there was no balance to when I was working. It was very stressful and it drained me. I stopped caring about myself. I got into the culture of having a few beers after every shift, I’d finish late most nights and then would have the torment of not being able to settle in bed so would drink more and that’s how I coped. This is when my invisible friend walked into my life.
After experiencing a breakdown one weekend I promised loved ones I would seek help. I wouldn’t say I have ever been ashamed in asking for help it was just more that I didn’t want the world to know right now. Family and a couple of close friends knowing was enough for me, but finally something had to give. I made my way to work on the Monday morning and contacted my doctor’s surgery, I spoke to the receptionist and told her I was in need of help regarding my mental state and she was able to get me in with my GP within the hour.
Then the terrifying thought – I had to tell my employer why I had to leave – it was weird; they said they almost knew, they had noticed over the recent month my change in personality but that made it OK – they actually understood and it didn’t seem as terrifying.
Through my GP I was prescribed an antidepressant and 8 weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy via telephone. During these we identified my main issue, rumination – a pattern of behaviour which means you think the same thoughts continuously, stifling your ability to think about anything else. This described me perfectly and finally I understood.
The last bit of help I sought and I think its been quite important in terms of what I think might have helped me the most, I promised my partner I would speak to Alcoholic Anonymous – as she was worried (quite rightly) that my drinking had become more than a just coping mechanism. After a few exchanged phone calls with an alcohol support line, it was agreed that my main issue was down to my mental state rather than the disease they class as alcoholism. Understanding this helped me to address my unhealthy coping mechanisms and look at gaining better ones.
In going forward with helping others and creating the awareness that is needed, the problem I found is that it took me so long to identify that it was a mental issue and whilst there is more awareness it’s important to not assume all men’s mental health is caused by the same thing. Speak to them, listen to them and just be there for them – sometimes that’s all they need.
If you feel affected by this blog please seek help and support from the link provided https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/