As if 2021 couldn’t get any worse I’m going to try talk about mental health/illness among us men.
Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never suffered with a mental illness. I’m fortunate, but I think this is because I’m quite open and honest with how I feel. But men, we don’t talk about this.
A quick Google tells you 1 in 8 men have a common mental illness such as depression. That means of all the men in my family, on average, 1 of us will suffer with a mental illness. Thats quite a scary thought.
In 2019, there were 5691 suicides. I dread to think what the figure could be for 2020 with the pandemic, but, of those 5691 registered 4303 of those were men. Let that sink in a minute. That’s around 3/4 of all suicides. Now before we go any further if you feel suicidal or need to talk please speak to someone like the Samaritans.
I’m not saying we can link all these to mental illnesses. But men, what is going on here? Why are we not talking? We always hear “It’s OK to not be OK” or “Speak up you can talk to me” but it seems us men aren’t as free at opening up.
“I’m fed up of seeing mental health/mental illness” or “I’m sick of hearing people talk about it” doesn’t help. If you’re not feeling well, you have a cold or you break your leg, do you stay quiet? No, you speak up. So when your mental health has taken a battering or you develop a mental illness why would you not want to speak up?
Well I guess maybe cause of things like those quotes up there. They don’t help do they. Especially if its other men saying these sort of things. It can be hard to speak if you think you are being a burden. But truth is, to the people who care, you really aren’t being a burden. So speak.
I experienced a loved one suffer with anxiety and possible depression, it was an ex. It was a hard 2 years, she lost her job, her confidence and the person I fell in love with had disappeared in what seemed like a blink of an eye. But you learn about each other in these times, it was hard. We argued, we fell out, we split up and about 4 times she was moving back home and even packed all her stuff, until it came to leaving and she couldn’t leave the house.
I read a lot and I tried to understand. We cant rely on others to teach us everything so you have to teach yourself. If something doesn’t seem right question it. Ask again. Or if you don’t understand why someone may have changed ask them. Check in on them. Let them know you’re still there.
I realised words were powerful at a time like that. So when you see things like “All we hear about is mental illness and mental health” or “Everyone plays the mental illness card these days” it just doesn’t help anyone.
I used to come back off a nice 2 week holiday, sun, sea, poolside and all inclusive food & booze. Walk back in to work “How does it feel to be back Paddy” my response would always be “I’m depressed being back” but in honesty I was far from depressed. But there’s the problem.
I’m sure we have all been guilty in the past of using words we actually don’t mean. Be it “Im depressed to be back at work after that 2 weeks holiday” or “I’m quite OCD about volume being on even numbers” both of these aren’t the right words to use.
Imagine someone who is genuinely suffering with depression hearing that. 2 days later you’re back in work and laughing your head off while they are still stuck in a dark space. Or that person you sit next to has to turn the light off 18 times before they can leave the house and you’re saying if you know the volumes on 9 you’ll turn it up to 10. But you don’t know this unless you check the volume. You weren’t depressed you were just feeling the holiday blues and a bit sad that great time is over. You aren’t OCD about volume you just prefer the numbers to be on even.
There is no magic wand to make these discussions better. I cant say anything is going to make it easier. I wish I could. But we do need to talk. So if you read this and are on Twitter why not tag one person and ask them how they are? Start the conversations. They aren’t easy but they need to be had. It doesn’t need to be a man, this blog apart from the figures at the start, could quite easily relate to women as well.
If you are unsure read up on things. Don’t assume that someone is jumping on the bandwagon. Don’t assume you know someones story because they put on a front. A lot of people will only let you know what they want you to know. If you are concerned please keep having those conversations with that person.
Mental illness takes many different forms and aren’t always easily identifiable. I’ve come across many people, men and women, who have or do suffer with mental illnesses. None of them are alike in how they act. So don’t assume.
Other than talking what else can we do? Well right now we need to take advantage of being allowed out for exercise seen as though gyms are closed again. Fresh air and exercise could help. But phones now have a multitude of apps. Two I’ve used are Calm and Headspace and both have been useful.
But importantly if you are suffering please please speak up. Talk to someone. I’ve linked to the Samaritans at the top of this but there is so much more out there. You’re not alone. You’re not jumping on a bandwagon and you are not a burden.
Right now it’s easy to pass off and pretend you’re OK cause you cant see the person talking to you and they cant read your expression. But be open and talk.
If you’re the one checking in make sure you ask and ask if they don’t seem like they say they are.
And finally remember if you read this and are coming from Twitter then please tag someone and ask them how they are.