DRINK A CUP OF CEMENT AND HARDEN THE F*** UP!
Article by: Luke Foster, Psychologist
Research suggests that there really is no right or wrong thing to say to someone who might be struggling, as long as you approach them with authenticity and the genuine intent to help. However, comments like those written in the title of this article, and others like “get over it”, “walk it off”, “don’t be a p*ssy”, “snap out of it” definitely DO NOT HELP.
In fact, these types of comments show a significant lack of empathy towards people experiencing mental health challenges, drive stigma and make people feel even worse about themselves. We’ll explore alternate, much more helpful and empathetic ways that you can chat with people who might be struggling shortly, but before we do that let’s look at the state of men’s mental health, or more specifically mental ill health across the globe; after all, it is men’s mental health week this week.
Men DO experience mental health issues; A LOT of men experience mental health issues. Experiencing a mental health issue is NOT a sign of weakness, it’s a fact.
Speaking of facts, check out some of these well documented statistics:
- On average, one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage during their lifetime. One in two men will experience some form of mental illness over the course of their lifetime – most commonly, depression, anxiety (as just mentioned) and substance misuse disorder.
- Fellas make up an average six out of eight suicides every single day in Australia. One man dies by suicide every minute of every day across the globe. Let’s dive deeper into what this means… Are you familiar with the game of Rugby League? If so, think about this. Over the course of a Rugby League match, which typically lasts for 80 minutes (unless of course it goes to golden point), 80 men across the globe will no longer have a beating heart by the end of a Rugby League match because of suicide.
- The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll.
THIS DOES NOT SIT WELL WITH US AT LIVIN!
But why? Why are men so vulnerable and why are so many men dying far too prematurely? The answers to these questions are not clear cut, are multifaceted and complex, but here are just a couple of the suspected reasons for the alarming statistics outlined above:
- A lot of men are reluctant to talk to or see someone about their concerns because they view it as a sign of weakness, and in the case that they do speak up, a lot of the time they don’t receive the support they expect or need. Professional support for men, in many instances appears to be missing the mark. The good news is that the research is telling us that more and more men are willing to give therapy a go, but again, the support received seemingly does not meet their expectations or their specific needs and invariably men flick the process the bird after one session (this occurs in 40 to 60 percent of cases), never return to therapy and go forth suffering in silence. That is why it is so important to be patient and find the right help for YOU. Shopping around is okay. Sometimes it takes talking to 1, 2, 3 people before you find that professional you truly connect with. Persistence and patience is absolutely encouraged when it comes to accessing professional mental health support.
- Men find talking about what is truly going on beneath the surface extremely difficult in a lot of instances. This can include things like sadness, worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness. So instead they express their distress in ways that they see as more manly and socially acceptable amongst men – through anger, irritability, substance misuse or violence. A guru in the men’s mental health space, Zac Seidler (Director of Mental Health Training at Movember) encourages us all to go forward with this in mind; when you’re seeing a man in your life struggling ask yourself “What are they presenting to me and what am I looking for, rather than what do they want me to see?”
Before we look at ways in which you can help yourself or a man in your life who might be struggling (in fact, these strategies aren’t gender specific and can be generalised to all people), let’s debunk a few myths (I think we all know what BS means…):
- Mental illness is a sign of personal weakness – BS!
- ‘Real men’ are in control of their emotions and don’t let things get to them – BS!
- Feeling sad, down or lonely is not manly – BS!
- If a man is struggling, they should be able to just ‘snap out of it’ – BS!
- Men should not have to ask for help, they should be able to deal with things on their own – BS!
If a guy (or anyone for that matter) is struggling, what can you do?
- A great way to support a man is to let him know that you are there for him through thick and thin. If a bloke in your life is clearly struggling and showing some of the warning signs and symptoms included in one of our previous articles (“R U OK? How to be prepared for the answer to be no”), it’s probably a good time to have a chat. But please remember (and this will also help to take the pressure off yourself) that your job IS NOT to diagnose his symptoms or act as his psychologist, but instead to be that shoulder he can lean on to get his life back on track. And you know what? It is NEVER too early or too late to support someone who may be struggling.
- Improved mental health starts with a conversation. Trust us, we understand that it may be difficult, even awkward at first to start that conversation, but it could end up changing, even saving someone’s life. Included in this article we previously prepared for you are ways in which you might be able to help that person in your life who might be struggling.
“Manning up in the past was to suffer in silence, manning up now is to put your hand up”. “Fellas, it’s OK to be in pain, it’s OK to hurt, it’s OK to be sad, but it’s no longer OK to suffer in silence”
– Danny Frawley.
It’s time for a new narrative, because the old narrative of staying quiet and toughing it out simply is not working and is ending lives far too prematurely.
Let’s embrace the new narrative that ‘It Ain’t Weak to Speak’, remembering that every man is a son to a daughter.