Men’s mental health is something I am hugely passionate about! I’m a male who has a diagnosis of depression and anxiety which I manage on a daily basis. Working for a mental health charity I also see the reality of what mental health looks like across communities in Lancashire. 

I want to use men’s health week to reiterate that everybody has mental health. Although mental health is exactly the same as physical health, for many reasons, we, particularly men, feel barriers around talking or sharing anything about our mental health which is the opposite of how most people freely talk about their physical health.  

One barrier I feel some men still face is the traditional view of men and the societal expectations from decades gone by. Historically, men have been made to feel they shouldn’t cry, show emotions and should be 'strong'. These ideas have led to harmful and negative sayings which are still used today such as ‘man up’ yet the world has changed! 

"Stigma is the biggest barrier I have experienced myself and also seen in other men across the communities I work in."

Stigma is a word often used when discussing mental health but what does it actually mean? The dictionary definition is: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”. 

This, in reality, is seen as not showing your true self, perhaps 'wearing a mask' - covering up your true self to appear how you think others and society think you should look, act, and talk. 

There has been years of hard work to reduce the stigma around mental health but it is still there, particularly for men. But there are some simple things we can do to support continuing to reduce stigma in society, to help create environments where talking openly, without fear is normalised. 

Ask Twice
Most times, us men see a friend and naturally say “you alright pal?” but are you asking if they are okay or is it a greeting these days? By following up by asking “are you actually alright?” then you are genuinely showing interest in them as a human, initially this might seem strange or repetitive but soon enough you may see people opening up. This Men’s Health Week, give it a go with somebody you are close to and see what happens!

Be Observant
We notice and talk about the changes in the weather but we don’t always notice subtle changes in people around us. Next time you notice a change in someone, ask that person if they are okay. You might get nothing back, but that person will know that you care. 

"Showing compassion and respect for the people you care about needs to be normalised. "

By showing a little compassion, you will be helping in the fight against men’s mental health stigma as well as impacting on the people you are close to. One seemingly small conversation could have a big impact.

Around 1 in 8 men are currently living with a mental health condition. Sadly, so many of these are likely to go undiagnosed (Mental Health Foundation). 

In 2020, 75% of all suicides were men (Samaritans).  

If people do open up to you, just listen to them and this will help to validate their feelings.

Below are some groups who I have personal experience with and highly recommend.

Creative Football - which supports adults with mental health and wellbeing challenges through the power of football. They offer a number of football initiatives including Blokes United, Girls United and the Social Inclusion Football League, alongside several 'Just Play' sessions covering Blackburn, Chorley and Burnley. 

Talk Ourselves Well - a platform which gives people the opportunity to talk about their mental ill health, illness, health and wealth challenges and experiences. They host regular walks and weekly ‘Man Support Collective’ sessions at Whitehall Park in Darwen.

Rise and Shine Lancashire  - a mental health peer support group for people who live in Blackburn, Lancashire and the immediate surrounding areas. They currently host three sessions a week across Preston and Blackburn. 

Lancashire Mind is a company limited by guarantee (company number 3888655) and a registered charity in England and Wales (registered number 1081427) at 80-82 Devonshire Road, Chorley, Lancs, PR7 2DR. Lancashire Mind are registered with the Fundraising Regulator. For all enquiries, call us on 01257 231660.
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