Men and Mental Health – Let’s Talk (Pt 2/2)

I’m assuming you’ve clicked on to this second blog as you’ve read my first one entitled “Men and Mental Health – Let’s Talk”. If you have not read that I would recommend you do so before progressing any further!

Referring back to the ‘Masculinity Report’ carried out by the wonderfully named, “Campaign Against Living Miserably” (CALM), I think it’s good to unpick Professor Damien Ridge’s comments about how men tend to ‘self-medicate’.

I can only concur with this view when I look back at the darkest period of my life in 1996.

Following the suicide of a close friend with whom I worked with closely in the Leicestershire Police, I don’t think I was actually aware of the impact that his death had on me. Although I knew deep down that all was not well within my soul, I certainly was not going to talk about how I felt. In the environment in which I worked, I perceived that to be a sign of weakness and there was no way I was going to show any signs of weakness!! I was suffering with so much inward pain, (that I hid quite well from those around me), the only way I felt pain-free was when I was asleep.

However, I simply could not sleep.

So, going back to Prof. Ridge’s findings, I began to ‘self-medicate’ in order to induce that pain free sleep I so craved. I therefore began to drink much heavier than usual, which was quite easy to disguise, and I also started to ‘dabble’ with other substances that you generally don’t buy over the counter at Boots!! The knock-on effects of my behaviour spiralled into outbursts of anger and rage, as my self-esteem all but disappeared. In truth, I didn’t ‘like’ myself.

So, the more I ‘self-medicated’ the worse I felt until I decided to end my own life. Of course, there is a longer story to be told, but in essence God sure did come to my rescue and I’m only able to write this due to his unfailing grace. So, I guess you’ll just have to invite me to your men’s event to hear more!!!

But there’s something really important that I want to finish with and if you take nothing else away from reading this, please DO take this with you;

You may recall last year that HRH Prince Harry very bravely spoke publicly about his own battles following the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

The Daily Telegraph printed this is response, “Mental Health experts have praised Prince Harry for revealing that he sought counselling after 20 years of bottling up his grief over his mother’s death – and for speaking out so honestly about it. The prince said he has suppressed his emotions after losing his mother, Princess Diana when he was 12. He took up boxing to help cope with feelings of aggression before finally seeking counselling. ‘I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions, when all sorts of grief and all sorts of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle’”.

And more importantly, Sir Simon Wessely, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that the prince had achieved more in terms of communicating mental health issues in a 25-minute interview than he had himself in a 25-year career.

So, fellas; as my GP once said to me, “It’s ok to feel ‘a bit low’ but if you find yourself staying there, come and talk to me”.

Don’t do ‘the man thing’ and ignore it in the vain hope that it will go way……. It won’t!!

We need each other gentlemen, so LET”S TALK!!

If you need to reach out and begin the journey away from the precipice the starting point is to tell someone. Talk to someone you trust, let family or friends know what’s going on for you, they may be able to offer help and support. If you find it difficult to talk to someone you know these free helplines are there to help.

Help and support is available right now if you need it. You don’t have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.

If you’re worried about someone, try to get them to talk to you. Ask open-ended questions like: “How do you feel about…?” Don’t worry about having the answers. Just listening to what someone has to say and taking it seriously can be more helpful. See Samaritans’ tips on how to start a difficult conversation.

Image Credit: Alex Iby