Encouraging men to open up about their mental health
While awareness over the importance of good mental health is growing, the stigma around men seeking support via therapy remains a significant barrier to accessing appropriate interventions. The reality is that anyone can experience difficulties in coping with life’s stressors. These can be rooted in one’s personal life, financial situation, work, or simply linked to worries over current world events. All and any of these factors can take a toll on our mental health, especially when we don’t take the necessary action to resolve the negative thoughts and feelings surrounding them.
In celebration of Men’s Health Awareness Month, this month’s blogpost is all about shifting the narrative around men’s mental health. The focus is on removing the stigma that prevents so many men from speaking up and reaching out for support. In addition, we also offer some tips for men and their loved ones to apply in their everyday lives to support one another and to foster healthy communication about mental health related issues.
Myth-busting: The truth about mental health and going to therapy
It’s important to remember that taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. When we have a physical ailment, we seek immediate medical attention to ensure optimal recovery, yet we tend not to show the same sense of urgency when we’re experiencing psychological difficulties. The simple truth is, our brains are just like any other organ in our body, and takes strain when we don’t nurture it or give it a chance to rest and recover.
Just as each of us are unique in how we look, what we’re good at, and what we take interest in, there are also remarkable variations in how our brains are wired and how they transmit messages to the rest of our body. That is why we all react differently to different situations, events, and stimuli, and why some people are more prone to developing mental health issues. We need to remind ourselves that experiencing issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. These issues are brought on by several factors that are outside of our control, and although there may not be a ‘quick fix’ there are many ways to manage the symptoms so that we may lead happier, healthier lives.
Therapy is a powerful tool for improving mental health and should be explored even if you don’t have a diagnosis for a mental health disorder. Just like going to the gym or going for a walk keeps our bodies fit and healthy, going to therapy helps us to unpack and resolve the thoughts and emotions that are making us sad, stressed, or anxious. Therapy is also a space in which we can experience personal growth and get to know ourselves better, which in turn helps us understand our needs better.
Beating the stigma
Research has shown that many men around the world today remain hesitant to talk about their emotions or to reach out for help when feeling blue. This is largely due to the common misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness, or that showing emotional vulnerability is not a masculine quality. The reality is, we all have thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we struggle with, no matter what our sex or gender identity is. We all feel overwhelmed sometimes and talking about our thoughts and emotions can be a very empowering experience. When we share our experiences with others in an honest and vulnerable way, we allow for stronger connections to be formed and we may even come to realise that we are not alone in our battles.
So, how do we beat the stigma around men seeking out mental health support? We can begin by changing the way we talk to young boys about emotions and how they’re allowed to deal with these emotions. Often, young boys are told things like “boys don’t cry”, or they might be told by their peers or elders to “toughen up” when they do show emotions like sadness. As they get older, these beliefs can condition them into thinking that it’s not okay to show emotion, be vulnerable, or talk about their feelings. That’s why it’s important to reinforce from a young age that boys are also allowed to feel sad sometimes, and that they too can cry and be honest about their feelings.
As a society, we all have a role to play in beating the stigma. It begins with each of us taking active steps to show the men in our lives that they are heard, valued, and supported. In the section to follow, we look at several ways in which we can better support ourselves and the men in our lives on a daily basis.
Supporting our (and others’) mental health
The first best thing we can do to promote good mental health is to spread awareness about the topic and to communicate more openly about it. Once these conversations get going, people are more likely to reflect honestly on the state of their mental health and are likely to get more comfortable with the idea of going to therapy. However, therapy isn’t the only resource we have which we can draw on. By simply checking in with a loved one, friend, or colleague, we can already make a significant difference to their mood. Ask them how they are feeling, whether they are coping, and show them that you are there to listen and support them.
When supporting a loved one, it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s not our responsibility to solve their problems for them. All we can do is show them we are listening, that we are there to support them, and to show vulnerability so that they too can feel comfortable being vulnerable. We can only help them explore the options available to them and encourage them to seek out support from a professional when the need arises. Another way to promote good mental health in yourself and others is to emphasise the practise of self-care. This can include practising activities that make you/them feel good and that boost your/their sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Boundaries are critical for maintaining good mental health. When we don’t set boundaries, we can end up feeling physically, emotionally, or socially depleted from the pressure of trying to please everyone or trying to be in multiple places at once. If this is something that resonates with you, it may be time to start setting healthy boundaries for the sake of your own health and happiness.
Spending time in nature or having a hobby are also some great ways to reduce stress and boost your mental health. The best part is that you can help boost your loved one’s mental wellbeing too by inviting them along to join in on these activities. Scheduling quality time with someone makes them feel valued, seen, and appreciated, while also strengthening your relationship and improving overall communication with them.
Mental health is something that each and every one of us has, and we should never be afraid of telling the ones we love when we’re having a hard time. Many men are silent about their struggles with their mental health because they are embarrassed to voice their true feelings or afraid of being a burden to others. It’s time to change the narrative. Let’s spread awareness and open up communication channels where people can feel safe to share their thoughts, feelings, and stories without fear of judgement. Let’s make mental health a priority for all members of our communities, including the men nearest to our hearts.
- Carers Week (1)
- Counselling (2)
- Employee wellbeing (5)
- Food and Mental Health (2)
- Fundamental Concepts (22)
- Health (4)
- Health and Lifestyle (24)
- Men's Mental Health (2)
- Mental Health (37)
- Mental Health Awareness (7)
- Mental Health Awareness Month (8)
- News (1)
- Partner (3)
- Personal growth (8)
- Plumm News (1)
- Practices (9)
- Relationship Counselling (1)
- Self Help (28)
- Uncategorized (13)
- Women's Health (1)
- Work and Mental Health (12)
- Workplace Post Covid-19 (1)