Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Men’s Mental Health

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The definition for mental health states: “Everyone has ‘mental health’ and this can be thought of in terms of, how we feel about ourselves and the people around us, our ability to make and keep friends and relationships, our ability to learn from others and to develop psychologically and emotionally.

“Being mentally healthy is also about having the strength to overcome the difficulties and challenges we can all face at times in our lives – to have confidence and self-esteem, to be able to take decisions and to believe in ourselves”

It is quite normal to sometimes feel worried, anxious or upset when things go wrong. Everyone faces pressures in their lives at certain times, and it’s how we cope with these pressures which are key. On a daily basis we have work, finances, friends, family and relation-ships pressures to contend with. These pressures can build into larger anxieties which, if ignored, can become persistent and interfere with everyday life. It is therefore important to get help and advice with your anxieties before this happens.

It is likely that either yourself or someone you know has experienced mental health issues, with 1 in 4 people being diagnosed. However it’s the ones who haven’t been diagnosed we need to reach. The most important first step is to talk, by beginning a conversation with a friend, family member, health professional or support service, and then the healing process can begin. This sounds simple but it can often be the hardest thing to do, to put your concerns and worries into words. There are many support services in the Falkirk area that can offer help and advice without judgement.

It has been stated on average more women are diagnosed with mental health problems than men. This doesn’t necessarily mean that women are more prone to mental health problems than men. It could indicate that a lot of men are suffering with mental distress and may not be receiving or asking for the help they need. I remember a male friend, encouraged by his work to go the doctors for help and pushing a note towards the doctor, such was his mental anguish. People with mental illnesses are able to recover, but usually only when the problem is confronted and dealt with directly.

Maybe it’s the way we have been influenced by stereotypes, girls don’t make a fuss, and boys don’t cry. Whilst women talk to friends, or colleagues, men can tend to keep their mental illness to themselves, shutting loved ones out. They may begin self-medicating using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, or go tot he gym and exercise excessively as a way of coping. Whilst healthy pursuits help, they don’t always get to the root of the issue. Mental Health problems can begin with something as simple as feeling stressed. If this isn’t dealt with it can lead to anxiety and over time if not managed can lead to depression. Often mental issues resurface, when we least expect them, sometimes years down the line, which can manifest as PTSD.

Mental illness is common - One in Four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

Perhaps we should take time to remember the mind and body are intertwined, and our emotions affect our health, if the mind is out of sync the body is affected, and vice versa, if the body is out of sync then so is the mind. We have around 3 to 5Ibs of healthy bacteria in our gut but if this out of balance, in the case of IBS, then it can affect our brain. The opposite is also true: when we receive bad news we feel it in our bodies- in fact, our bodies respond to how we think, feel and act. Believe it or not, our mental health can affect our immune system over a period of time.

Therefore, if we can think about our mental health as part of our self-care routine we would all be in a better place. Think about a car, we put it in for a service when it needs fixed, we fill up with oil to lubricate the engine, water for the radiators, repair parts when they are worn, and consult an auto electrics mechanic when the computer system goes wrong, if only we looked after our mental health the same way, when we have a short circuit or our wiring has fused, let’s take ourselves to the doctors for an MOT.

There is still a stigma attached to mental health, because people believe that the person is to blame for their own suffering. Statements such as “pull yourself together, you just have to get on with it”, may be intended as an encourage-ment, but can often feel like a criticism. I remember someone once saying to me, “What, you are suffering from anxiety? As a professional, I thought you would know better!” It is this sort of stigma which encourages people to suffer in silence and deters people from accepting their condition and agreeing to treatment.

Of course, mental illness is no-one’s fault. It is often a series of events, circumstances and imbalances, which lead to problems that you can’t just will away. The truth is all of us will need the support of others at some point in our lives, regardless of who we are. Reducing the stigma attached to mental illness will take time. However the increase in positive media coverage and public figures stepping up to tell the world about their own mental health journey can help raise awareness of the issues. These stories makes us aware of our own mental health, and prompt us to under-stand when we might need to get some help or support with how we are feeling.

Having said that, we all have mental health, and it’s not just us Brits. Across the globe other health services in other countries struggle with approaches to mental health. Denmark is consistently listed as one of the happiest places to live, and in their culture they adopt the attitude of “Hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah). This is a defining characteristic of Danish life, and is all about being kind to yourself, indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself any-thing. It simply requires being present and recognizing a moment that feels so sweet, cosy, charming, special or nice that you just have to name the moment. Ref: Maybe we need to take a leaf out of Denmark’s book, and get “Hygge” with it.

Good news though, there are numerous mental health organisations within the NHS and various charities which are specifically set up to help combat these issue. These organisations provide information online, they can arrange counselling, or even just provide a listening ear at the end of the phone. They can set up an appointment or offer drop in opportunities for a coffee, an activity, or a course which may help you understand your condition more.

Talk therapy has been shown to help with many of the key mental health issues experienced by men, including stress, anxiety, addiction and depression. The key is recognizi-ng that you need support and seeking help before these problems get on top of you. Talking to a professional is a way to take back control. Remember, “you are not alone”. There is plenty of help available, and “YOU” are important.

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