Men’s mental health – paving the way for a healthy future.

Lets talk about mental illnessThis week the 11th – 17th June, marks 2018’s Men’s Health Week.

The theme for this year is Men and families: Making healthy connections.

Focusing on the healthy connections and family relationships, including how men and families focus on their health and the health of their family.

This infographic  looks at some of the major issues facing men today – physical health issues, alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep and nutrition.

It also outlines the top 3 causes of death for males, which are –

  1. heart disease,
  2. suicide
  3. motor vehicle accidents

Today I would like to talk about the mental health of males.

Because let’s be honest, it’s easy to talk about heart disease and motor vehicle accidents. We hear about it in the media, on the news, advertising campaigns, but it’s less easy to talk about mental illness.

Mental health is an issue for all. It does not discriminate, it can affect anyone and everyone.

It is vitally important to talk about because the more we talk about mental illness, the more we make it okay to talk about.

There are some amazing male mental health focused campaigns that have some really great information and resources –

Livin

Man up

SPUR

Man therapy

I’ve gotcha 4 life

Unfortunately, some men still seem to be hesitant, or uncomfortable talking about mental health or mental illness.

Why is that?

Time to Change.org asked the question of its followers and thousands of people replied – some of the responses included –

“Because a man is ‘strong and courageous’. Mental illness is something that is wrongly thought of as a weakness”

“Some men like to be looked upon as being strong and they think mental health is a weakness”

“Perhaps the thought of being portrayed as weak.”

“Being judged by other men. All about ego and stigma.”

Go check out some other insightful responses to the question they posed here.

Is the answer really that simple?

Men don’t want to be seen as weak?

If so then how do we make a change to something that may have manifested from childhood, when little boys are taught to supress any emotions.

The idea that little boys need to be tough, instead of being allowed to work through feelings and emotions really does impact a child’s capacity to learn about all ‘normal’ human emotions.

How often do we hear people say, “don’t cry, come on, boys don’t cry” or something similar – instead of “Its okay to cry, I understand that you are sad/angry/confused right now.”

So how do we make it okay for men to be able to talk to their peers about mental health, because we can’t change the past, we can’t change society’s view about what they thought of mental illness in the past.

What can we actively do to make it okay for our sons to talk about how they are feeling, to reach out when they are in crisis?

Talk to them about their feelings –

Simple, talk to them. Tell them about times you felt sad and how you managed it. Tell them it’s okay to be sad because it’s a normal human emotion. Make a discussion about feeling and emotions a regular and normal part of your communication with your family.

Check out Kids Matters for really simple things you can do to help encourage your children to express their emotions in healthy ways.

So what about adults, how do we make it okay, for men who have been raised with the belief that they should be seen as the providers, the leaders, not weak emotionally?

  • Just keep talking about it.
  • Challenge people you see who makes jokes about mental illness, or joke about peoples perceived weakness.
  • Talk to your mates about how you feel.
  • Reach out if you see something is not quite right with your friends.
  • Be open and honest about how you’re feeling.

It’s time to Challenge yourself. To step outside your comfort zone and stand up for your right as a male to have a healthy relationship with your feeling and emotions.

Pave the way for the future boys who are being taught its okay to be happy, sad and angry.

Discussing how you feel can save the life of someone who may not have the emotional capacity to say it themselves.

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