Today (10th October) marks World Mental Health Day – and this year, it’s more important than ever that we give it the publicity, time and attention that it deserves – with the world going through the toughest times in recent history. Whilst this post is mainly aimed towards men, it’s not exclusive!
Trigger warning – this post talks about mental health issues and suicide
My Mental Health
I’ve spoken about my own mental health quite a bit now – more so in recent times because I’ve finally reached that level of understanding that talking is good, and ok, and that we don’t have to suffer in silence. I guess I can also call myself one of the lucky ones – I’m very aware of how I feel, and when I’m feeling down, and I tend to be able to self remedy things without the need for medication. Others, however, are not so fortunate. In fact, it’s only since talking more about it recently that I’ve realised just how much my mental health has had an impact on the decisions I’ve made over the course of my life to date.
I’m not going to go in to details about things here – hindsight is incredible – we all have those moments in life where we look back and think “If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have done that!“. If you are interested in reading more about me, you can check out this post I wrote a few months back during Mental Health Awareness Week.
Why not use this World Mental Health Day as a good reason to take that step to either educate yourself more about the struggles some people face, or to take that step and reach out for someone to talk to?
The Importance of Talking
I know for some people, many people even, talking about how you feel is difficult – and I get that, trust me. Sometimes it’s easier to pop a smile on and carry on so the world thinks you’re ok – when inside, all you want to do is sit in a dark room for a few hours. It’s all too easy to think that you’re a burden, or that you have to “man up” or “stay strong” for those around you. I promise that the people near to you would much rather know that you’re struggling, and help, than to be oblivious to it and not find out until it’s simply too late.
During 2019, there were 5691 suicides registered in England and Wales. A staggering 4303 of those were male. That’s 75% of suicides in 2019 being men(1)
I’m not saying that talking would have reduced this number significantly, we can’t assume that. But there is clearly an issue in the male population that is causing people to take their own lives because they see no other viable solution. Financial burdens, family issues, bereavement, loneliness; whatever the stresses that are causing these suicide levels, something has to change.
2020 is, sadly, probably going to top the records for Suicides – with the Covid-19 crisis and isolation restrictions, loneliness and financial burdens (unemployment for example) are at an all time high. The impact of spreading the word about the importance of talking is bigger now than it’s ever been.
What can you do to help this World Mental Health Day?
There’s no quick solution here – but the key thing you can do is to simply check in on people around you. Ask how they’re doing, how they feel, if they have any concerns. Just a message to someone who you haven’t heard from for a while might spark that conversation. The assumption that “I’m sure John’s ok, I’ve not heard from him for a while but he’s always busy” is probably one that you shouldn’t make.
There’s never any harm in a quick hello just to let someone know they’re not alone.
If you’re struggling, then try and tell someone. There are some incredible groups around that will spark a conversation – maybe one you never even thought you’d have / need to have. Whilst Twitter and Instagram can often be a cesspit of negativity, there are some corners that are welcoming – and I’ve certainly made some friends for life over the past few months without ever actually meeting them.
Letting people know that your inbox is open, or that you’re at the end of the phone if they need you, might also just be enough to help someone open up. I’m pleased (if that’s the right word?!) to say that I’ve had people come to me when they haven’t been feeling great – and to know that people are willing to talk about their issues with me, a total stranger really, is quite humbling. I will always listen, and try and help where I can.
There’s also a lot to gain from taking time to educate yourself in a few simple methods of understanding. Having the ability to stop yourself from instinctively replying to someone, or from only picking the negatives; taking that time to process your thoughts and judgement really helps no end. It’s something I’ve become more aware of recently – my own ability to be more mindful of other peoples situations, and to try and see a bigger picture instead of the immediate here and now. It’s especially useful when people are in crisis mode and they need to talk – being able to offer advice calmly is really useful (and a skill I never thought I’d be able to obtain)
If you’re looking for someone to talk to, and don’t feel like you can reach out to a friend or family member, then please do use the services below. You’ll speak to a trained professional who can help:
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
You can also read about World Mental Health Day here
(1): British Medical Journal : https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3431