I have been wanting to talk about mental health on my blog for some time and I thought today would be a fitting time with it being World Mental Health Day.
Since the age of 14 I have struggled with mental health problems – mainly anxiety and depression – and have sought help from counsellors, therapists, CBT, and more recently, life coaches. But it’s something I have rarely spoken about, and this is what I want to discuss today.
It saddens me that we live in a time where it’s still frowned upon to have mental health problems, the topic being almost a taboo, especially amongst men. There is still a stigma attached to admitting you have a mental health problem, I feel it’s the assumption that if you do, people will think you spend your days unable to get out of bed or contemplating slitting your wrists.
Reality check: this isn’t always the case. You can suffer from mental health problems and still have a seemingly normal life, go about your job and life, socialise with friends and family, keeping how you really feel completely under wraps. Like many illnesses, there is a spectrum. Don’t feel guilty or dismiss the fact you may have a mental health problem just because you can still get up and go to work.
My worst times were when I was 15 and when I was in my second year of University – however, when I told my close friends what I was going through, they were all surprised, on the outside I seemed to be coping just fine. Thankfully I have grown up in a very open family where I am encouraged to discuss how I feel, and was able to get the right help and support that I needed at the time, but I know that it’s not the case for everyone.
With a background in Psychology I have always had a huge interest in understanding the human mind and what makes people tick. Looking back on my relationships, there has definitely been a trend where I have dated people with some emotional problems that they haven’t yet addressed, I have taken them on almost as my duty, to try and help them come to terms with the issues they have never spoken to others about.
Suicide (usually from depression) is the single biggest killer of young men in the UK. We sadly still grow up in a culture where men are forced from a young age to ‘man up’ and not talk about anything that is upsetting them, to not cry and never show any signs of emotional weakness.
This has to change.
It is an archaic and redundant belief that brings about so many negative repercussions, and for what? Why shouldn’t men cry? Why should they be forced to act like everything is OK when it’s really not? Who ultimately benefits from men behaving in this way? Women don’t, and men sure as hell don’t.
So what is the point?
We, as a society, need to learn that it’s OK not to be OK. We are humans, not robots. There will be periods in our lives where we won’t be happy all the time. Negative life events happen to everyone, and it’s not just OK, but healthy to discuss how you’re feeling at those times with other people. Humans are sociable people, in the same way we reach out to others when things are good, we need to learn to do the same when things are bad. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed for not feeling chipper 24/7. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem in their life, approximately 450 MILLION people currently suffer from a mental health problem. But as people are still too scared to talk about how they’re feeling, many of us end up feeling as though we are suffering alone and noone can relate to what we are going through.
But we can change that.
I completely understand how daunting it can be to open up to a total stranger about your biggest worries, your insecurities, your deepest, darkest fears. But if you really can’t face the thought of speaking to someone face to face there are alternatives:
SANE LINE is a charity that supports people with mental health problems over the phone.
If you’re a man, CALM is an incredible charity that can offer support if you’re experiencing distressing thoughts.
If you’re a teenager/young adult, you can speak to Papyrus.
If even a phone call seems too intimate, I have often turned to Relate, where apart from inputting your first name, you can chat anonymously with a counsellor over Instant Messenger.
To my lovely readers (that are happy to share) – have any of you ever suffered from mental health problems? To my male readers, do you ever open up to anyone when you are feeling down? If not, why not?