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Men’s Mental Health – We Need To Talk About It

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Mental health conditions are not selective; they can affect a huge range of people. However, evidence shows that it is more common for men to suffer from poor mental health.

A recent discussion at the Pure Land Series at China Exchange in London talked about some of the issues surrounding men’s mental health, led by Good Morning Britain’s Sean Fletcher, with Paul Farmer, CEO of MIND; Jon Salmon; Dr Steve Young, from the US Embassy; and Joel Beckman, General Manager of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).

According to recent statistics, suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. These statistics highlight that mental health is a huge challenge for men  – the panel agreed that although mental health has become an easier subject to address in the public domain, there is still work to be done.

Jon Salmon described how the decision to speak openly and publicly about his mental health experiences after his father’s suicide, had led to feelings of liberation but also vulnerability.  All his friends, and even his wife, expressed surprise when he first spoke about these issues publicly as they were not aware of his feelings.

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L-R Sean Fletcher from Good Morning Britain, Jon Salmon, Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, Dr Steve Young from the US Embassy and Joel Beckman, General Manager of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM),

Panelists outlined how vocal male role models, panel discussions, and reports in the mainstream media have been pivotal in changing attitudes and addressing the stigma of mental health. However, to an extent, the stigma has not vanished. It’s the fear of judgement, as well as of being a burden, that has prevented men from seeking help before it is too late.

They all agreed that mental health has become an easier subject to talk about in the public domain in recent years, but that there is still work to be done.

In sharing that both of their fathers had committed suicide, Joel Beckman and Jon Salmon discussed the effects of suicide on the families and friends left behind with the panel, sharing the common sense of grief bewilderment, responsibility and questioning, the questions “why?” and “what could have been done?” which resonated in the minds of family members and friends in the wake of these tragic events.

When asked for advice for how individuals can monitor and address their loved ones’ mental health, the panel suggested:

  • Paying attention to any unusual behaviours as these can be indicators of a change in mental wellness. These included, among others, drinking more than usual; insomnia or sleeping longer than normal; taking recreational drugs; or driving recklessly; which may indicate that a man is not coping well. Paul suggested that members of the audience visit the MIND website for further details of symptoms. If you notice these changes in a loved one, ask how they are and if they need to talk.
  • Often, the person suffering from mental health challenges will be able to tell that the person they are talking to is trustworthy and cares about them. Trust is an important issue. Building trust is key to them opening up.
  • Another common issue among men taking their own lives is the sense of powerlessness – the belief that it’s impossible to make changes can often lead to the decision that suicide is their only option. Making a connection so that the person is reminded that they are not alone is essential. The sense of connectedness can be a life-saver.  Dr Young pointed out that it’s important to let them know that “the door is open, and even if they (the sufferer) do not choose to walk through it straight away, they know it is there.”
  • Don’t be afraid of not being an expert. As Dr Young reinforced “we are all qualified to initiate a conversation”. He said that, sometimes, sending a text can be a less intrusive way of letting someone know that you are thinking of them if you are not feeling confident to start a face to face conversation.

You can watch the entire discussion on the YouTube video below:

There is much work to be done to improve mental health awareness and openness in both schools and workplaces – the places we all spend most of our lives.  The panel agreed that mental health care cannot be the sole provision of the NHS, the responsibility sits with all of us, and requires a cross governmental approach.

Samaritans are available to talk to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed, you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123. Visit the website for more information and support: www.samaritans.org

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