"Chances are if you talk to your mates about your troubles, they will be open to you as well"
1. What does mental health mean to you?
Mental health is a state of internal wellbeing, influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Concepts within mental health and wellbeing are what makes us all different as individuals impacting how we behave, think, feel, and impact our abilities to conquer adversity, cope with stress, as well as build relationships and make healthy choices.
2. What do you do to look after your mental health?
There are several effective ways to look after your mental health, some of which are incredibly simple, and you won’t even realise. My main suggestion would be to spend quality time with those close to you. This could be anything from a phone call, cup of tea, or watching a film. Appreciate the time spent with those around you. Secondly, the benefits of exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet are understated in mental health. Exercise can be described as a positive mental health coping strategy as it releases hormones, such as dopamine, endorphins, and cortisol (relieves stress), which are all described as ‘happy hormones’ shown to increase wellbeing, and battle mood disorders such as depression. This does not need to be vigorous exercise and can be anything from walking the dog. Diet is a more biological concept, however something as simple as eating more vegetables is shown to increase your mood through a relationship between your gut microflora and the brain axis. There are many other ways to look after your mental health which I will list below:
Invest time in yourself; Build positive relationships; Sleep well; Mindfulness; Music; Podcasts.
3. Do you/did you ever find it hard to talk about your mental health?
Secondary School was the first time I ever felt any sort of stress or anxiety growing up through playing football but also putting a lot of pressure on myself in classes. At this time, I was embarrassed and felt like it was silly to talk about, brushing it to the side. However, doing this can take a toll on you. The greatest thing to remember is you are not alone; your friends, family, peers, and colleagues are probably experiencing, or experienced similar emotion overload. The best solution is talk to those close to you who care for you. Do not be embarrassed with how you feel, chances are if you talk to your mates about your troubles, they will be open to you as well. Doing this creates a balance in the relationship, reducing the fear of embarrassment. Myself and my friends are now very open to each other since first discussing things that are bothering us. We now offer advice and a secure space in our group-chat where we can discuss things over with each other in a non-judgemental and understanding way. I have found this to really help, and it has also drawn my closer to my mates.
4. Do you think there are any barriers to talking about your mental health being male?
There are multiple reasons why young men and boys choose to not talk about mental health and wellbeing. The primary barrier in my opinion is masculinity stereotyping and the stigma which follows accessing mental health services. There are investigations that highlight men feel ashamed to ask for help due to the masculine stereotype that males must be ‘strong, self-reliant and emotionally restrictive’. I disagree with this stereotype towards boys and young men accessing mental health services; young males should be viewed as brave for obtaining the help required to achieve maximum mental fitness. You would not just ‘toughen up’ a broken leg, so why would you ignore your mind? Therefore, mental health campaigns should be geared towards reframing the nature which surrounds accessing mental health services in young males.
A second barrier, not exclusive to males, but is generally low throughout the population is mental health literacy and knowledge. Investigations have shown that young males have a low mental health insight and understanding of the disorders and emotions. In turn, this inhibits a male’s ability to engage with help-seeking due to a lack of awareness or reduced emotional competency.
A final barrier is that there is a lack of awareness for service provision. This can be regarded as a personal barrier, as young males are shown to have a lack of understanding on how to acquire help. However, this ties in with the first barrier, as males will not seek help due to the need for over-autonomy and self-reliance in treatment. This can cause adverse treatments in young males e.g., using alcohol and drugs to cope, or avoiding treatment whatsoever.
5. Do you think there are enough mental health campaigns out there that are aimed at men and boys?
I think that there are some very positive mental health campaigns out there guided towards men and boys, however one main problem is promotion and accessibility – especially in schools. Thinking back to when I was going through school, although I never required services, if I had a friend who were to ask me where to look for self-help or further information, I’d have no idea where to direct him. I will tag a couple positive campaigns below which are specifically for men:
HeadsUpGuys – https://headsupguys.org
ManTherapy – https://mantherapy.org
Movember – https://uk.movember.com/mens-health/mentalhealth
ManUp? – https://manup.how
I believe that schools and young boys would benefit from increased awareness of services, but also posters which signpost positive reinforcing messages geared towards talking about mental health and wellbeing.
6. What do you think would pique the interest of men and boys when it comes to a campaign about their mental health?
To target barriers within a framework there are a few specific functions which require addressing. A primary function would be education, increasing knowledge and understanding of mental health literacy in an accessible and language appropriate way. To target stigma and stereotyping for males in mental health, there needs to be subtle language changes to reframe the way young men approach the situation: for example, instead of the word treatment or therapy, focus on the nature being along the lines of ‘protect yourself’; use ‘mental fitness’ instead of mental health to reframe it in a sport or athletic manner. Using this type of language could potentially aid in carving a new social norm.
The use of male role models in a programme with positive solution focused experiences or promotion could reshape masculine norms. Social comparison is an effective behaviour change theory, as it provides the young individual with someone they can relate to.
Using solution focused self-help guided treatments can be an effective way to increase interest in a programme due to a male preference for self-reliance. Self-help methodology has been identified as an appropriate way to encourage people to seek intervention for their emotional problems.
7. Are there positive role models in the media for men and boys who are experiencing troubles with their mental health?
There are many role models in current media who advocate for young men and boys to speak out about mental health. Michael Phelps speaks about his only personal experience with Gold Medal Depression, and how he benefitted massively from seeking help. Harry Kane, professional footballer, is part of the Mind Charity who promotes that there is strength in seeking professional help for mental health problems and that we all need help sometimes. Recently UFC fighter Paddy Pimblett in a post-match interview spoke about one of his friends who recently took their own life battling depression. Within this interview there was power and emotion in his words where he begged for fans and viewers to seek help when they are feeling down. There has been a massive shift in podcasts and media culture where there are masses of episodes promoted towards happiness, mental strength, resilience and battling mental illness where each host and guest finishes with the importance of speaking out. An example of a podcast which helped me understand happiness is Episode 101 and Episode 144 of the Diary of a CEO (Steven Bartlett) with the Happiness Expert (Mo Gawdat).
8. What tips would you give young men/boys on talking about their mental health?
My biggest tip is no matter how big or small a problem, find a suitable time and a comfortable communication method (this could be text, phone call or in person), then be as open and honest as you can be with someone you trust. If there is something troubling you, letting someone know is the first step to feeling better. I know that if someone I am close to is struggling, I would be more than happy to listen, but I would also achieve a great sense of satisfaction knowing that they trust me to help them.