Men's Mental Health Week (June 10th to the 16th)
When you hear the word ‘health’ what do you think of? A balanced diet? A gym membership? Cycling to work? Entering Marathons? We seem to think of all physical elements that contribute to our overall health and well-being. And they are mostly positive.
Now, what if you hear the word ‘mental health’? Do you think of depression? Anxiety? Stress? We seem to think of more negative elements that contribute to our mental health.
Here at AWARE we are working to break down the stigma of mental health so that we can talk more openly about it, and start prioritising our minds in our healthy lifestyles. Although physical elements can contribute to our mental health, it is the same vice-versa and therefore they should both be looked after equally!
So why do we have a Men’s mental health week in Northern Ireland?
1 in 4 of us will develop some form of mental health problems each year, and Northern Ireland is reported to have a 25% higher overall prevalence of mental health problems than England. Records of suicide began here in the 1970s, and 2015 saw the highest rate with 318 amount of deaths recorded, 77% of those being male.
As we approach Father’s Day at the end of this week we want to celebrate the men in our lives and support them. That also means recognising if they are not seeming like themselves and understanding it can be harder for them to open up about mental illness.
Why? Do men feel less able to talk about how they are feeling?
Women tend to have friends or family members who they feel they can truly open up with, were as men sometimes seem to be less comfortable with these types of conversations. This can lead to feeling lonely, isolated, and worrying you are the only person that struggles in this way - which you are not! This contributes to further ill mental health starting a vicious circle. Men are less likely to visit a medical professional and tend to self- medicate (alcohol and drugs) which heightens any mental health problems. They may also feel shame by the stigma that still surrounds mental health. Perhaps they are left feeling they shouldn’t be showing emotion as there is still a culture pressure on men, and so, in turn, they feel that they have failed in some way. These are not truths, and AWARE is working hard to raise awareness, break down cultural stigma and create more platforms where men can feel comfortable to open up.
AWARE has offered support groups for over 20 years, which we are now seeing attended 50% by men, equal to the women attending which is so encouraging! Every week we see men talk openly and support each other in ways to move forward. There is not a requirement to talk, some come and only listen which still allows them to hear similar stories to themselves and combat the loneliness in this illness. To learn more about these please watch our video link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvHSkTR8MMA
Culturally we are seeing so many more male role models and celebrities open up about their mental illness. This continually creates freedom for men, where they feel they too can come forward and discuss what they are going through. We hope to see so much more of this in the next few years so that more and more men can be understood, treated and move forward into an overall healthy lifestyle!