"As a male it’s somehow expected that I should know what to do in any given situation."
1. What does mental health mean to you?
Good mental health for me means a sense of emotional wellbeing, connection to others and having a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. In addition, good mental health for me relies on having fulfilling relationships with others. Feeling a sense of belonging contentment and security is also important.
Poor mental health for me is feeling a sense of anxiety and lack of meaning and structure to my life, Loneliness, low mood, alienation and other difficult emotions like anger, shame and low self esteem are symptoms of poor mental health. Feeling cut off from others and a lack of motivation and direction exacerbate poor mental health.
2. What do you do to look after your mental health?
I look after my mental health in a number of ways. Sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife and talking to friends is a big part of good mental health. I like to mediate and play piano/ guitar, I like going to see bands and visiting quiet places (country walks with our dog, churches or art galleries) If I feel the need for peace. I aim to walk 10.000 steps a day and eat healthy food, I find cooking therapeutic too. Another important aspect of my mental wellbeing is having work that is meaningful helpful to others and stimulating.
3. Do you/did you ever find it hard to talk about your mental health?
In some respects, yes, working in the psychotherapeutic field makes it easier for me to take steps to improve my own mental health.
4. Do you think there are any barriers to talking about your mental health being male?
There are a number of barriers to talking about my mental health to others. One reason for this I do not wish to upset or burden others. Secondly the stigma attached to mental health is still very prevalent and is associated with weakness. Males seem to have an unwritten implicit understanding that we need to show strength, this is particularly important in our relationships with females. It’s somehow expected that I should know what to do in any given situation. Males in general are often expected to fix things around the home for example. Respect is very important to males and to show vulnerability often results in others taking advantage of this vulnerability and makes us look weak in the eyes of others.
5. Do you think there are enough mental health campaigns out there that are aimed at men and boys?
No, I don’t think that there are enough campaigns aimed at Men and Boys. A recent example which changed the perception of mental health and Stigma was Prince Harry’s openness about his struggles. Other high-profile men have shared their experiences too and this has been useful in breaking down barriers, to some extent. In a sense then seeing other Men talking openly about mental health actually dispels the myth that to seek help for mental health is a weakness. When it in fact it takes courage to speak up and be seen and risk being criticised as a ‘snowflake’ for instance.
6. What do you think would pique the interest of men and boys when it comes to a campaign about their mental health?
Peer involvement for example having some form testimony from Boys who have been for counselling and found it useful. Some type of campaign which dispels myths about using counselling services involving expert witnesses. This could be Sportsmen or Celebrities. A skills-based type of groupwork (survival guide) for men/ boys. Skills that can be learned and can help you thrive excel and overcome problems.
7. Are there positive role models in the media for men and boys who are experiencing troubles with their mental health?
There are a number of Men who have talked about their mental health in an open way. The comedian Limmy for example has been very proactive in this area, he is a relatable celebrity that a lot of young people know about. Others like Billy Connolly and Prince Harry are famous and open about mental health problems but, perhaps not as relatable.
8. What tips would you give young men/boys on talking about their mental health?
To treat themselves as they would like others to treat them. Self-care, joining a sporting club or being involved in group-based activities. Being part of something positive that gives them a sense of meaning purpose and belonging. Making something can also give boys a sense of pride and achievement.
Not ignoring their feelings and finding someone with experience that can talk to and is willing to listen without judgement.