Updated: Aug 26
I would just like to begin by reminding everyone reading this, that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help and reaching out for support if you are struggling with your mental health. There are different options for seeking support, from speaking to your support system to professional therapy, which can help to reorganise your mind and lead to better management of your thoughts and feelings. If anything in this article triggers you or inspires you to reach out and ask for help, here are some useful contacts:
Samaritans → 116 123 (UK for phone contact, e-mail contact has an international reach)
No Panic → 0844 967 4848 (UK for phone contact, e-mail contact has an international reach)
https://checkpointorg.com/global/ → This website has multiple contacts all over the world. Please check this out if you are not from the UK and would like to seek help over the phone. These options are split based on needs, making this a very useful resource.
Men’s Mental Wellbeing:
With Men’s Health Week running from June 15th through to the 21st, it is only fitting to start by focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of men around the world. It is a widespread stereotype that men are supposed to be strong, never cry, not need help, and not struggle. This stereotype continues to be instilled in youth today! However, with international statistics showing that men are around three times more likely to die by suicide than women (there are slight variations by country but the overall pattern is very similar), we really need to ask ourselves why we portray males this way, as it is clearly not the case and is very damaging.
Although suicide rates are decreasing among both genders, the fact that suicide rates exist and the sheer difference between males and females shows that we, as a society, are not doing enough. For example, in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 35 years of age, with the highest suicide rate existing among men aged 45-49, and worldwide, mental health problems are one of the main causes of overall disease burden. Mental health disorders are less common in men, yet the suicide figures are so much higher. This could be due to many reasons, including the possibility that men are not reaching out and therefore not receiving diagnoses. However, one thing that can be taken from this is that there is clearly not enough acceptance and support available for men regarding their mental wellbeing, and it is possible that the stereotypical societal judgements are causing these negative effects.
I urge everyone to break away from these stereotypes, which are detrimental to the wellbeing of men, and start looking at psychological suffering without creating barriers. We will not be able to live in a society in which mental health struggles are listened to and understood on the same level as physical struggles until we all work together to do so! Everyone has feelings and everyone deserves to have feelings, no matter their gender or identification. Let’s work together to abolish these stereotypes and create a safe space for all! To all the men reading this, it is okay and perfectly normal to cry, suffer, and be angry! Do not suffer in silence; you are loved and you will be heard.
Moving away from the solely male focus above and onto general mental wellbeing, I want to encourage EVERYONE (!!!) to take steps to look after themselves. You do not have to have a diagnosis to practice self-care! Here are a few stress-reducing and self-care tips that I have posted on my Instagram (@creatureofcalm). Everything posted on my Instagram is either research or experience supported!
It is important to remember that not all of these ideas will necessarily be successful and that what works for your friend may not work for you. Self-care practice is highly individual and is like a self-discovery process - painful at times, but the final picture is beautiful. Once you have found what works for you, working through difficulties can be a far smoother process! This can also help you to be more mindful about changes in your own mental wellbeing and can help you recognise possible signs that you are burning out and needing to take time for yourself. I have attached another image from my Instagram to aid your awareness of these signs.
Mental health challenges can manifest in a variety of ways, the most serious of which is suicide. There has been a strong mention of suicide throughout this article. Self-help tips and advice about protecting your mental wellbeing and reducing stress are mentioned above, and suicide-specific information is outlined below. Please do read and absorb the information.
What to do if you are feeling actively suicidal:
REACH OUT FOR HELP!
Remove yourself from your current situation and go to a friend or family member’s house, that you feel is a safe space for you, your thoughts, and your feelings
Step away from triggers, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
Do an activity that you enjoy and find calming, to help you distance yourself from your current situation
Follow your safety plan if you have one in place. These are often put in place with the help of a therapist or support system, and have the purpose of protection in a time of crisis. They are formed by being aware of your triggers and creating a plan of action if you find yourself very unwell and may be in danger. It is most helpful for your immediate support system (therapist, family, close friends) to also have a copy of this or at least be aware, so they are able to help if needed.
Be aware of the signs that someone may be suicidal. Individually, these may not be a direct indication of suicidal intentions. Together though, these signs can be quite apparent, and must be compared to the ‘normal’ behaviour of that individual:
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! REACH OUT TO THEM!
Alcohol and drug abuse
Giving away belongings
Expressions of hopelessness about the future
Believing they are a burden to those around them
Withdrawal and drop in mood
Reckless, life-threatening behaviours
How to help someone who has opened up about being suicidal:
Praise and thank them for their bravery and trust in reaching out to you - this is the hardest step to take when struggling with mental health challenges
Encourage them to reach out and seek professional help, and offer to go with them if they are nervous.
If they are not yet ready to seek face-to-face professional help, propose the option of online therapies. For some, digital therapy has been found to be more successful than non-digital alternatives!
Remind them that it is a safe space for them to talk when they are with you
Remind them that they are loved and appreciated, even if they do not feel this way.
Encourage focus on the present, and not on the future
Use open-ended questions to talk with them about their feelings
Encourage them to put together a safety plan as mentioned above
How to look after yourself if you are supporting a suicidal individual:
Set clear boundaries and stick to them
Respect yourself and your capacity to take on the struggles of others
Seek professional help for yourself - this one is very important. You may not realise any effects that supporting someone else is having on you, but simply talking to a professional can massively help to clear your mind and provide the reassurance that you may need.
Thank you for reading, I hope this has helped to encourage and educate you! :)
Links to the sites used for the statistics: