It’s amazing what lengths men will go to in order to cover up their psychological unwellness. It’s a taboo topic in the pub. You can’t just openly admit that your anxiety has ravaged your insides till the point where you’ve questioned reality. They don’t want to know, it might lead them to question their own minds, but they’d never tell you anyway.
I developed quite severe anxiety after a very bad reaction to some strong cannabis, where I had a panic attack whilst high, which was absolutely terrifying. I was next to a canal with friends, and I tried to walk over two bridges in a row, but I could swear we went over them several times. Then I simply couldn’t continue walking because I was so confused, and that wasn’t the end. When I looked to my left, two coppers were walking up the same bridge, to look down the other canal to check up on an unrelated issue, but during my trip, I saw thousands of coppers, walking straight to me. I was absolutely petrified. Combining that with the stress of my A Level exams, I’ve been a nervous wreck for a while. That said, I’m on the road to recovery, but it still plagues my mind on bad days. Even though I’m in a good place, I still can’t bring it up in the pub like I could with a sprained wrist.
But why? Why can’t you admit these things, and what can we do to make sure that mental health is treated exactly the same as physical health?
One idea I’ve got is to ensure everyone knows that mental ill-health is usually temporary. Depression and anxiety come in periods, and it more often than not acts like a common cold or flu. With this is mind, let’s think of footballer’s physical injuries. It is quite frequent that you’ll see Jack Wilshire, Nicklas Bendtner or Vincent Kompany on the sidelines with physical injuries. Three weeks, two months or a career ending injury. Men grasp this concept, it’s common and it’s just a part of life. So why can’t we apply this model of thought to mental health? Colin’s not at the pub because he’s on the sidelines for a month with depression. What a shame, we’ll make sure he’s got one on the slate for his return.
So how do we ensure that men understand the importance of speaking up about their mental illness? We need to make mental health a key priority in youth education. Primary school, secondary schools, colleges, universities. All young people need to know about the dangers of covering up their mental wounds and ills, and need to know how to support others. We need to encourage discourse about mental health, and promote mental wellbeing and positivity.
Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. It’s time we took things seriously. We need to make an effort to ensure that male mental wellbeing is not left behind. Mental health for everyone is a massive issue, let’s just make sure that everyone’s on the same page.