International Men’s Health Week 2023
“For he who has health has hope; and for he who has hope has everything” – Owen Arthur
We’re not machines, we’re not robots, we’re not Chat GPT! What’s more, I don’t think we’re expected to be!
We are affected by emotions, illness, other people’s attitudes towards us, pressures of time and expectation (often our own) as well as many, many other things.
One person cannot control everything; and nearly everything that we do in life – whether at work or for ourselves personally – is affected by others and external factors.
What that one person can do is to consider whether they are doing all that they can do to maintain good physical and mental well-being for themselves, and/or how they might be able to improve it.
We tend to know what good physical well-being should look like, for example, minimising aches and pains and being able to breathe properly, – and we tend know how to manage this: a healthy and balanced diet suited to your individual needs; seeing a doctor for specific problems; and taking medication to assist with issues and alleviate symptoms.
With a sore throat, for example, you would tell someone you have a sore throat, and in return you would get a list of medicines, soothing sweets, home remedies and advice about seeing a doctor or pharmacist.
What we are not so experienced at doing, is recognising what good mental well-being should look like. So, what does it look like? Well, it is different for everybody. It is not necessarily easy to identify a particular problem or thought pattern as being the cause of how you feel, or whether or not you can cope with a specific task or situation, or just generally doing day-to-day tasks. Many tend to ‘just get on with it’. So, how then do we know that our mental well-being is not where it should be? A fantastic question, and one that does not have a straightforward answer. I find it useful to remember that you do not have to feel soooo happy all or a lot of the time. It’s perfectly fine to feel upset, disheartened, scared or angry. That’s not negative – that’s being human.
Despite how you feel at any given time, do you feel like you ‘just get on with it’, because you feel that is what is expected of you, as aa son, a partner, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a man? Ask yourself this: if the people around you care for you (e.g. colleagues, friends, family), would they want you to ‘just get on with it’ if you were struggling physically? I imagine the answer is no. Why then is that different to if you are struggling mentally? I don’t think they would discern between the two if they knew that you were feeling the way you were feeling (again, by way of comparison, a physical condition can sometimes be more apparent to others than a mental one).
In my experience, you could:
speak out ask for help whisper in someone’s ears shout from the top of your lungs
have a word talk to a stranger talk to your closest companion
seek professional help (like a doctor, counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist)
contact a mental health charity chat with colleagues
Asking for help does not mean that you are burdening someone else with your problems. Many see it as having an opportunity to help someone who they would love to help i.e. you. There doesn’t need to be a complete diagnosis of your mental health; you can talk about things that are worrying you, things that are making you feel sad, or things that you are thinking about that you don’t want to be thinking about.
Asking for help takes courage; and I think courage lives within us all if we look deep enough inside. As newborn babies, the only time we communicated was because we needed something – for survival. What has changed since then? It is a human’s instinct to help itself to survive – don’t fight it. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, and I, for one, would welcome any conversation with open arms. Go on, help yourself – take a step in a direction you haven’t been before – open up. Help can come in so many different forms, and sometimes most unexpectedly; embrace it and try to think about YOU (it’s not selfish!!!)
You could also think about how you might be able to help others around you who may be looking to take that step and just need a little encouragement. As we don’t know what people are thinking, raising awareness of these issues and stimulating discussion could be key to helping people find the courage to talk.
“Self care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation” – Audre Lorde
Some links to supportive charities:-
International Men’s Health Week
12 – 16 June 2023