Warning if you ever speak with me face to face and ever utter the words “man up” or “its all in your head” be prepared for a swift and probably very angry response, there are very few sentences/phrases in the vocabulary of others that cause an adverse reaction, but when it comes to male mental health we seam to have been conditioned that because we are men, our feelings are somehow irreverent, or if we are depressed we just need to man up, or as in most cases its contains an expletive, or that we are soft, weak and need to just pull ourselves up by out boot straps, get a grip and be a “man”.
Every day on average 12 men commit suicide, and a common theme if you dig into it is that family and friends often say they did not see any signs, they had no idea that the men in question were suffering, were suffering so badly that they needed to take their own lives, why is this? Again because most men will hide their condition, hide behind fake smiles, fake laughter and will often throw themselves into work or hobbies to try and mask it under a cloak of tiredness, some will even use crutches such as alcohol or drugs to try and self medicate their way out of the debilitating symptoms. Why? Well in most cases because society does as a whole see men who open up about mental health as weak or less of a man, and from my own experience I have even been told “How can you suffer with depression – your a man” like my gender made me immune from it!
In my own experience even talking about mental health with people I considered at one time my closest friends, some of which experienced male mental health issues in their immediate family was extremely hard for me, these people had been my friends for a number of years and knew my condition, knew what it entailed but I still found this near impossible to do. Probably not helped when their reaction was to just ignore what I was saying and turn it into a “banter fest” by the end of the conversation instead of coming out of it with the support I needed I became a play thing to laugh at. These are the sorts of barriers that I have faced, and men as a rule face on a daily basis, and why some men choose to stay silent for fear of ridicule or fear of ostracization, and let me tell you folks its the loneliness that is the worst part of depression! You can feel lonely in a room full of people when suffering with depression, so magnify this when you really are left out on your own, and that’s when the depression takes hold, that’s when it does its worst damage.
What we need to do instead of trying to pull people down, well down even further anyway, is to recognise that its perfectly normal to suffer with a mental health condition and build people up instead of pulling them down!
What do I mean by pulling people up rather than down? It’s quite simple really, it’s about helping your fellow man, allow them to talk, don’t judge them, be a positive force, encourage and help them grow as a person, if they open up to you about their mental health rather than make a joke of it or dismiss it as irreverent or make jokes about it – listen to what they are saying, and I mean really listen not just let the words enter you head, listen to what they are actually saying. Offer guidance but not advice, allow them to tell you how they feel – it’s OK not to understand how they feel – they probably don’t understand it either.
More importantly do not see it as a weakness, speaking as someone who bottled my feelings up for pretty much my entire life and lived behind a facade of anger and male “toughness” – let me make this as clear as I can, it takes a hell of a lot of courage, inner strength and guts to admit you are suffering inside, more so with the stigma that is attached to mental health in general and more so towards male mental health, if your friend or family member is opening up to you about it – it’s taken a lot for them to do so.
So lets end Man Up and start seeing man down – and helping them instead, build up your fellow men don’t tare them down!
You can read more of my journey battling mental health and my mission by clicking here! One Velo is sponsored by Cool Hammocks – Suppliers of the UK’s best quality hammocks and hanging chairs.