During this blog I want to discuss why we still fear mental health as such a taboo topic and why there is still not enough awareness around people talking about how they feel – especially men. I feel that there is still a massive stigma around mental health and talking and I really want to start raising awareness on how important it is to talk about how we are feeling instead of keeping it locked inside and then it causing us even bigger mental health issues down the line.
It is reported that 5,821 people took their lives in 2017 due to committing suicide and a staggering three quarters of those deaths were men1. This is an alarming figure and just helps to back up my theory from above that we clearly still struggle to talk, especially men. In 2018 125 men took their own lives each week and the statistics still indicate that 75% of these deaths are still men2. There are some great charities out there trying to help raise awareness for this, such as CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).
People not talking I believe is especially important at the moment with the pandemic we are in. More and more people are struggling behind closed doors and not addressing relationship problems, losing jobs, physical abuse and struggling with family pressures.
This is not an easy topic to write about because the reason why we do not talk is going to be different for everyone, however, after researching it appears there are some very common themes;
- We are scared how others will perceive us;
- We fear humiliation and abandonment;
- It makes us less of a person;
- We do not want to be thought of as weak and that we cannot cope with our problems;
- We fear the consequences and people knowing our thoughts/problems.
All of these are fair responses but they are also feelings we should not be worried about. Easier said than done, I know.
It is suggested that the stigma around not talking is more prominent now because we live in a World of instant gratification. If we want to buy something usually we can have it and it will arrive today or tomorrow. We have so many choices in life so it is hard to know which one to make and also there is the constant need to upgrade and have the newest model. But is this truly how we should be viewing the World, possessions and even people around us? Are we letting the choices and ways we are told we should be living our lives really overtake the ‘original’ life we were given? Does materialism really add to our lives or is it actually making us more unhappy.
I say this because it was suggested that we now struggle to define who we are, what are our core needs and wants, our passions, our purpose and also what are our true perspectives on life; but why is this? I truly believe that all of the material things we are told we should have and want, plus the way we need and feel we should impress people and be perceived, has taken over our lives. We are striving to be someone we think we should be instead of being who we are. Does someone really care what car I am driving? What phone I have? Probably not, and if they do, should I really care what they are thinking? Surely looking after our own happiness is more important.
This striving to always impress and seeking reassurance and kudos from people is having devastating effects, especially on the younger generations. This is the case not only because it is leading some to feel they cannot keep up and feel depressed and unwanted but also because it is happening on such an unconscious level that people do not even recognise they may be depressed of have some mental health issues because they are not really sure what they are (due to lack of education around the topic), so therefore they are not standing up and talking about it. We find ourselves going into ‘survival mode’ closing all the walls around us because it is the easiest way to cope. We decompartmentalise.
The sad part here is our response to the way we feel and how we fear talking. Women often go silent and fear life and panic whereas men can unbalance their testosterone levels due to the way their body is reacting to how they are feeling. This unbalanced testosterone can make them feel unsafe, constantly under attack consequent to them pulling away and falling into silence rather than speaking about how they are feeling. Neither gender coping in the right way.
Another suggested reason for us finding it hard to talk is that perhaps we had never truly had a role model of the same sex in our lives to look up to and feel we should follow in the footsteps of. We are creatures of habit and we learn a lot from our peers, parents and grandparents so I can see why this would play a role in how we believe we should behave.
So how do we help ourselves to talk more? These are the suggested three best ways;
- Find someone who we can trust and feel comfortable speaking to and try to open up to them slowly about how we are feeling. This does not have to be a friend or family member it could be a counsellor. It does not mean you are mad if you find yourself a counsellor to talk to, trust me.
- Get to know yourself and what you are looking for in life and how you can go about getting that. This step is a tough one as you need to have some own self toughness. You will need to dig deep and find out where these thought patterns are coming from, how you can change them and stop avoiding the pain that you are blocking out by dealing with your thoughts.
- You will need to step out of ‘survival mode’ and start using uplifting and positive phrases and words instead of those that will cause you to feel down and disempowered. You also need, at this stage to stop overthinking things. Little is better than large in this case. Less thoughts are more. You need to start in small steps and appreciate and learn to love what is in front of you instead of worrying about what is in the future or the past. A good way to think about this is to think of mountain pose in yoga – standing in the present not focusing on the past or the future. Enjoy your life where it is at the moment.
Life is never going to be 100% easy and we will not all get an easy ride. But it is important to remember that many of us at some point will have to deal with mental health issues and we have to recognise that it is ok to talk and listen to each other. We will not be thought less of or deemed to be crazy. In fact you might just find that people find you even more endearing and see a certain amount of strength in you for reaching out and saying ‘I need to talk’. Fancy that! You might even find that they then turn around to you and say ‘do you know what, I have also felt like this’ and they then start talking to you about their struggles.
It’s time to try to make a change and to encourage each other to get things out in the open. The only way we can try to reduce suicide and mental health is to get talking. Now is as good a time as any to take the first step and start supporting each other.
- Office for National Statistics – Suicides in the UK: 2017 Registrations.
- Office for National Statistics – Suicides in the UK: 2018 Registrations.