It is mental awareness week and it’s great to see lots of promotion about this. As a doctor I see quite a lot of mental health conditions presented in my GP surgery.
In this blog I would like to speak to a particular group, men. So apologies women, forgive me for this isolation.
Since the existence of time, men are meant to be confident, strong, fit, unbreakable, resilient and the corner stone of any family. In some instances I would argue that this is meant to be the case. But many people forget that men are human beings. We have our faults, we have our uncertainties, we have our tests and we have our inner battles that probably only other men can understand. Most men know there is a side meant to be shown and a side not to show. But because of this strong notion, many men feel embarrassed and ashamed to confront mental illness, let alone deal with it.
It is probably easier asking a man to watch Bridget Jones Diary on repeat than asking him to see a GP to talk and confront a possible mental health problem. I can guarantee that disbelief and denial is usually the first hurdle to jump before any recognition.
There are many types of mental illnesses and it would be beyond the scope of this blog to list them and explain them. However it is important that I clarify the common denominator between them all. That is the effect it has on day to day function. Sleep, appetite, concentration, libido and mood can all be affected by mental illness. Contributing and adding to bigger problems like building relationships, ability to work and worse questioning your own self worth and reason for living.
In life we go through trials and tribulations and there is no escape from that. Men more so than women are judged by how they respond and behave due to them. In most circles we are meant to easily bat away issues without showing the true impact and feelings that come as a result. Sometimes these feelings are easy to deal with, but sometimes they can be a trigger for a mental illness.
When counselling a man coming in with mental illness, the most common factor is how they hide it from their friends, families, and colleagues. Phrases like “I need to be strong for my family” or “actually I was forced to come and speak to you doctor” are common place. And even though I try to reassure them, the stigma of “men must be strong” is still a barrier to overcome.
But the reality is mental illness affects all ethnic races, ignores religion, transcends status and most of all can affect anyone at anytime. So men when you are with your friends and you are asked “how are you doing?” don’t be afraid to open up especially to those you trust. Because the very thing you are struggling with, could be the same that your fellow man is struggling with to.