Why Men’s Mental Health Is So Important to Talk About
Date: Friday 17 Sep 2021
Men’s mental health is important because many men keep their stress to themselves. They don’t want to seem like a burden.
I read up on mental health a lot. And, for the most part, I come across women’s mental health blogs. It’s said that women are far more likely to experience anxiety and depression in their lives than men, so it makes sense to see more women than men speaking out.
Even so, there’s still a huge number of men experiencing poor mental health. In my experience, men don’t tend to open up freely about how they’re feeling as often as women do.
From what I can tell, and from just being around women my whole life, women tend to be more open and share their problems within their friendship groups. They don’t shy away from conversations about their emotions in the same way that men do.
And so if this is what I experience in my daily life, I can’t help but imagine that this is the case for most of the world’s female population. I can honestly say that I’ve never been sat with a group of guys that have started talking about how anxious or stressed they are and how they need help.
It’s just not what happens very often amongst guys. Of course, I’m not saying that’s a good thing.
In fact, I think it’s the main reason why men suffer in silence. Its why whenever I feel overwhelmed with stress I go to a female, whether it’s my mother or wife to be for comfort. Women are comforting. They have a caring nature about them that is unique. That is what makes them special.
If I am in emotional or physical pain, I want to be looked after by a compassionate caring woman. I respect the women who do open up to each other so freely. I also respect the men that open up amongst other men a huge amount because I know how awkward it can feel.
Men’s mental health is important because many men keep their stress to themselves. They don’t want to seem like a burden. They’d rather carry on acting like everything’s okay for the sake of their families or just so they don’t have to deal with the inevitable conversations that would come from talking about their emotions in the first place.
I know many men who feel as if they are the glue, the backbone of their families, the ones that everyone can rely on when their family needs something. The pressure of this is mostly okay until they become stressed about something. Then, when one thing then turns into several things, they become overwhelmed by the compounding stresses.
The feeling they once had of being the rock soon seems so distant and they begin to feel worthless and this is when they begin to feel a burden. In 2018 in the UK alone, men were three times more likely to die from suicide than women. Whilst there are various factors that would contribute to such a figure, I can’t help but think it’s partly to do with the silent pressures men feel.
Whether the idea that men are the providers is something we have constructed socially is up for debate. Speaking for only myself, I feel an instinctive need to provide for my family and look after them the best that I can. The same as an instinctive need to eat food or drink water. It feels built into me, a personality trait due to my gender or not.
Most men want to feel worthy.
Most men want to feel as if they are contributing to their families or their own lives in a positive way. They want to feel useful to those around them.
I look at my own mental health and what I’ve experienced as a man.
My own experience as a man with mental health issues
Much of my depression has come from a feeling of worthlessness. Trouble with a lack of money to support myself and my family at times has left me in a state of mental despair. I suffered in silence for a long time before I finally started to talk to others about it.
It was a dark and lonely place. Going to a job I hated just to keep us afloat made me feel as if I was a robot, desperately wanting to feel like a live human being. I wanted to feel anything other than emotional pain and suffering.
I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I never opened up.
Would I still be in a job I hated, quietly going through the motions until it became unbearable to even wake up anymore? I dread to think.
But after all of my own experiences, I realised where that suffering came from.
It came from feeling worthless, like a failure, as if I couldn’t do a good enough job for myself or those I loved.
How many men are experiencing that right now?
This is why men’s mental health is important to talk about. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can simply be a case of asking a friend how they are.
It can be stopping him for a few minutes and asking him what’s on his mind, giving him a small break in the day to day grind to really have an opportunity to offload.
Wives, parents and children can expect us to stay strong, especially when we’re consistently upbeat and act normal. We can be seen as those guys who are always positive and reliable.
But I’ve noticed something about those guys. They’re the ones who let things weigh on them because they think they can’t show emotion. They think that if they talk about how they feel deep down then they’ll feel and be seen as weak – a total threat to their perceived identity.
They don’t want to feel weak because their whole identity is attached to an idea of strength. Interrupting that idea can feel unbearable in itself. Their image has been built up over many years and so they don’t know how to be anything other than strong.
However, it seems to me that the only way to help these guys is to give them those two minutes to talk about anything they want.
I’m interrupting this post...
I’m interrupting this post right here. I’ll explain in a moment. I usually write my blog posts over a couple of days. Whilst writing this very post, I had a message from an old school friend. I didn’t recognise her at first and it took a while to remember who she was.
The message wrote “sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
The message had an attachment. It was an image of another old school friend who had passed away.
I was in shock. The irony of writing a post like this at the time was unbelievable. Joe had killed himself.
I hadn’t spoken to him in years but I grew up with him as a small child and thought very fondly of him to this day. I thought maybe one day I’d bump into him or talk to him again at a school reunion.
Memories of my childhood started to rush back to me. Old faces from my old town. The kids I used to knock around with. It was overwhelming.
I talked to another old friend who was in contact with Joe in recent years and he explained everything that had been going on. Joe had been going through a very hard time. He’d been ill and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
My old friend James told me that he’d been suffering with depression ever since we left school. His illness made him feel worse but he then seemed to perk up in recent weeks. He went to football matches, spent time with his family and was fully aware of what was wrong with him.
But then, on Sunday night, he made the decision to end his life. It seemed so sudden. James told me that he had been in good spirits up to that point.
But he was suffering in silence, putting on a brave face.
It’s the same old story. One minute they seem normal, the next they’re gone. I still can’t believe it. I write about this kind of thing all the time and to have Joe gone is surreal.
He was a big part of my childhood. He was a top guy who would always help you out. He had a loving family that would do anything for him. Yet, he still wanted to go. He couldn’t take it anymore.
We never know what is going through someone’s head. Behind the smile and the jokes can lie a deep pain and desperation. The faces we wear are only ever masks.
It’s so important to talk and pull out the inner thoughts of others. Only then can we try to help them.
I want to wish Joe peace, an old friend, a caring and kind man.
Talking to a guy about his mental health
Maybe you’re a girlfriend, wife or a friend of a guy that you think is in the middle of having a hard time. Maybe you want to talk to him about his mental health. If you’re not sure how to approach the situation, there are a few things you can try.
As mentioned, it’s a good idea to ask him if you can have a couple of minutes with him for a chat. Whilst you don’t want to catch him off guard you want to make it sound important for you to get a few minutes with him.
Once you have an opportunity to talk, start by asking him how things have been lately and ease into the subject of how he’s feeling. Perhaps you can even mention you think he’s seemed like he’s been stressed lately if it seems appropriate.
I wouldn’t say that I had an intervention but I’ve had the above kind of conversation in the past. This type of gentle conversation eventually ended up with me unloading the emotional stress I had been carrying around for some time. It’s important to listen and be understanding as best you can.
As mentioned, I think it’s hard for many men to let their guard down and get into a deep conversation where their egos are stripped away and they can truly talk from the heart.
This conversation doesn’t have to be forced. The main thing for him to know is that you’re there if he wants to talk. But I also think it’s important for him to know that you want to talk to him about how he is. This lets him know he has an outlet for when he’s ready and that he has someone who is not going to judge him or talk over him.
This type of gentle conversation seems so obvious but in practice, it is incredibly powerful. It reminds him that there is a safe space for him amongst the busyness of this crazy world where so much is demanded of him.
I was living on autopilot. Going through the motions was weighing me down. I needed cold water to be splashed on my face so I could see clearly again, I needed to let go of all the things that I had been putting on my back. Talking was the best step to pulling me back to a clear mind. From there I could see what I needed to do. An outside perspective is exactly what I needed and that was only provided to me by another person sitting me down and talking to me.
Men’s mental health is important, perhaps more so now than ever.
It makes me sad to hear stories about men under so much silent pressure, bubbling up until it all becomes too much.
Tell him that you’re there. Tell him that he doesn’t have to always be that reliable guy, the one who’s strong, works like an ox and keeps going no matter what.
Tell him it’s okay to be who he is deep down when he needs to and he can be his honest self with you.
Previously Published on projectenergise