‘Let’s talk!’ – about mens’ mental health

iStock_000029384684MediumWe have written before about the difficulties men face when they are experiencing mental health issues. It is nearly a year since we wrote of the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation in Boys Don’t Cry and since then we have seen periodic moves to raise awareness of suicides amongst young men, for example. Yet the situation hardly seems to change.

So why do men find it harder to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties, often so serious that they are considering ending it all? Is it that their issues relate specifically to being male?

There is still, even in the 21st century, an expectation that the man is the one on whom others rely. He will sort out problems, practical or otherwise. From toddlerhood a boy is discouraged from expressing his emotions in a healthy way – ‘boys don’t cry” or ‘act like a man’ are phrases many still hear, and thus when they are faced with problems they can’t solve, perhaps in young adulthood, they are more likely to feel they have failed as a man. A culture of silence amongst their contemporaries means few of them realise how common these feelings are.

Jane Gotto, Director here at The Terrace, says:

“Yes, men are at a crossroads and the question of how to be a ‘good man’ has changed and the parameters are different.   Mainly our culture does still support the expectation that men should be strong, shouldn’t cry, nor share feelings of being vulnerable or having difficulty.    This leaves some men without a way to process their feelings, or even acknowledge what’s happening for them, which can create isolation and alienation.   From there, the difficulty can escalate with other behaviours to cover the difficult feelings – increased drinking, excessive work or exercise, sexualised behaviour, drugs etc…”

Research has suggested that men sometimes feel better taking part in active therapy, such as art, music or horticultural sessions rather than direct one to one therapy sessions. It was also deemed important to ensure men didn’t have to take time off work to attend sessions as work was something that held many together, and when working in a stereotypically macho atmosphere many were reluctant to express their feelings openly. Some felt that mental health services were geared around ‘women’s problems’ and whether true or not that has to be a perception that is changed if we are to see any progress.

Rupert CounsellorFrom the articles and reports that have come out in recent months it is clear that there are specific issues men struggle with, including drinking increased amounts of alcohol and other addictive behaviours. The Charter for Sport and Recreation works to remove the stigma around men’s mental health by raising awareness of the problems well-known sports stars have faced. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff and footballer Clarke Carlisle have been frank about their problems, and now we regularly hear leaders in their sporting fields speaking about mental health. But there is still much work to be done. Jane Gotto says:

“22 years ago, when I founded The Terrace, very few men sought counselling support.  This has significantly changed with men seeking support for themselves and for their relationships in more recent years. Some men have been able to carve out a supportive network with mind liked men.     However encouraging this is, more needs to be provided and more needs to be said.”

In 2015, a documentary was shown on BBC3 in which Stephen Manderson, better known as British rap artist Professor Green, allowed cameras to follow him as he sought to find out why his father had committed suicide eight years ago.  Manderson said:

“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life……It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”

He went on:

“The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it…. it is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”

Manderson (Professor Green) went on to make a second program, showing where people can get support, including the work of The Maytree, a centre where people can go when they have suicidal feelings.

In an article about the documentary, published in The Guardian on 27th October last year, Rory O’Connor, professor at Glasgow University, highlighted the deep-rooted nature of male suicide:

“The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family…..Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”

If you would like more information about the support available to men, and women, with mental health issues, these links are a good place to start.

Many offer a helpline if you fear you are reaching a crisis point.

For young people: Young Minds

Mental health charity Mind, with local branch Mind in Taunton & West Somerset

SANE

The Mental Health Foundation

www.mankindcounselling.org.uk

There is also an excellent report, referred to in this article, which offers an overview of men’s mental health services. It is called Delivering Male and to download simply click on the link to download a copy.

The link to Professor Green’s program can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGjlPACQC6Y&app=desktop

Do also feel free to call us here at The Terrace on 01823 338968. We have a number of counsellors particularly skilled in dealing with the issues mentioned in this article and we would be pleased to discuss matters, in confidence of course.

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Guest post: Living a real life again – on giving up a twitter addiction for Lent…

Brooke Sheldon

Today we are pleased to welcome Brooke Sheldon as guest blogger to let’s talk! Over the coming weeks we will be offering a variety of writers, thinkers, therapists and anyone interested in well being the opportunity to talk about something of importance to them and to give their thoughts on how we can support our own emotional and physical well-being in our increasingly fast paced world. Here Brooke writes of her decision to leave the twitter-sphere for the 40 days of Lent, and the results – some surprising, some less so –  of her experiment. Social media addiction, affirmation and validation can be replaced by something far more meaningful….

social-media-addictionIn February, on my blog, We Are the Books We Read, I wrote a post about giving up Twitter for Lent. I decided to take a break because it had become an all-consuming vacuum, a fake symbiosis. I truly believed that those who ‘followed’ me were as absorbed in my life, thoughts, exaggerations, petty complaining and bitching.

Result One. The first thing I noticed after logging out was the increased time I had every single day.  Very quickly, I had literally hours to fill. Where once I updated the feed every few seconds, I now had time to look at a draft of the book I’ve been working on since 2011. That’s right, 2011 and while I’m still not finished all these 40 plus days later, I have completed more editing in this time than in the last six months. I had wrongly believed Twitter to be as reliant on me as I on it and that I needed Twitter to be a validated as a person.

Result Two. I started thinking again; ideas, realisations, sentences, comments, interactions and experiences all materialising in forms greater than 140 characters. The world opened up. I noticed the life around me and I revelled in the mundane.

A few days into Lent I wrote in my diary, the trees are budding with flowers and new leaves. Life is coming back into the park by the bus stop. A few days later I wrote, the storm last night has blown the flower petals all over the ground. They look like snowflakes against the dirt. Observations like this have been out of character for me in recent years. Sad but true.

Result Three. Increased time to read, to watch films, to engage with creative mediums. Don’t misunderstand, I never stopped engaging with these activities but there was always the tug of what was happening on Twitter. The need to see what everyone else was doing, thinking, emoting etc. debilitated the enjoyment.

Result Four. On Twitter nothing has changed. The same conversations are happening, the same arguments are repeating, the same causes are being fought for, the hatred of various people is maintained – the continuity is familiar but falsely safe, disappointingly prosaic and invidiously narcissistic.

What I find curious is the numeric stability of followers to my account. There has been fluctuation yes but not as much as expected considering the only Tweets appearing were those automatically generated via my blog. Inconsistently, the unfollowers have mainly been those who assert (allege), in their biographies, that they are followers of Jesus, belonging to Christ, and other variations. These are people (accounts) one could expect to understand the path I had taken.

This brings me to Result Five. Did anyone who follows me, notice I was gone? Did they open the app, or the website and think, ‘gee, I haven’t seen Brooke around lately, I wonder where she is?’. My bio states my intention, but was the message read? Was anyone interested?

Initially, I vainly wanted the email alert saying someone had “DM”’d me, I wanted the email saying someone had mentioned me in a Tweet and not one came. I can honestly say this was a problem. Yes I said where I was going but no one said ‘hey, good choice’, or ‘good luck, see you after Easter’ and I felt let down. I felt like no one cared.

What I’ve realised is that in the reverse, I was (am) the same when people stop using Twitter. I wouldn’t notice they were gone until someone asked about them. We, as humans, are so wrapped up in our own concerns we take little time to be the shoulder to lean or cry on. We spend excessive time putting our happiness in the hands of strangers who communicate in 140 characters (or less) and we allow the control of that 140 characters to determine our worth. Honestly, I am happier without that little blue bird smothering me.

I was going to write “there is no way to avoid Twitter these days” but this is what social media types want us to think. Those who seek to saturate us with various social elements don’t want us to realise that smiling at someone in the street, giving up a seat for a pregnant lady or picking up a piece of rubbish is a social act. The ‘socialverse’ wants us, nay, insists and forces our engagement, through screens big or small and tell us that to not do so is unnatural, deviant.

On day one I thought I would be desperate to open the app and pick up where I left off. Now I realise, like any addict, I wasn’t in control and the desire for Twitter manipulated me every minute. Twitter is a tool to use and this had become reversed. The biggest realisation from this experience is that I am okay as I am. I don’t need validation via 140 characters.

Our thanks to Brooke. Do check out her lovely book review blog We Are the Books We Read .