Earlier this week, I listened to a work related podcast. The subject was Men’s Mental Health, something that I struggle with from time-to-time. It was put together by Work’s occupational health department and featured a bunch of men, colleagues from another division, sharing their own experiences of mental health, trying to dispel some myths, and attempting to get some answers along the way.
It was curated by a mental health councellor who guided the conversation along at a reasonable rate. Considering I don’t work for a media or creative type of company, it was very professionally put together.
Hooked from the Outset
Normally with this sort of work thing, I reluctantly don my headphones, click the play icon and do other things whilst I listen; check my emails, surf the news sites, scroll through Twitter etc. We’ve all been there, I’m sure!
However, on this occasion I was hooked from the outset. I won’t go into too much detail here as to what the podcast covered as we’ll be here all night; suffice to say that a few minutes in, there was a revelation by one of the group that made me openly gasp:
“What the f**k?”
That was it! I had to continue listening, giving it my full attention. This clearly wasn’t a normal training broadcast!
At this juncture in my narrative I would normally share a link to said podcast, so you could have a listen for yourself, however though it was hosted on work’s internal network – so if you’re outside that network, as you are, reading this: then it’s not accessible to you I’m afraid. Sorry. If I get a public link to it in the future, I’ll share it with you.
To continue. Using a common business cliché, one of the key takeaways from this podcast, came out of a discussion about male suicide and why in the UK, rates are three times higher than those of women (source: Samaritans PDF). Furthermore, when it comes to their own mental health, why are men less likley to seek help, than women?
Now I’m not qualified in mental health wellbeing in any format, so the latter point of that paragraph above, has never occurred to me before.
According to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation there’s a range of reasons why this difference exists, check out this article for a more detailed overview of the main reasons if you want to read further. However, the one that was discussed during my listening centred around the differences at when young girls and boys, first start to be exposure to the healthcare system.
I Can Relate to That
The theory is this. Childhood diseases and illnesses aside, girls tend to start their relationship with their GP and as such a lifelong dialogue with the healthcare system, when they are relatively young. Commonly at the start of puberty or perhaps older when they become sexually active and want to ‘go on the pill’. This gives them the opportunity to get used to talking about their own health with a healthcare professional and as such making it easier to ‘open up’ in the future.
Young lads on the otherhand, and I’ve counted myself in with this generalisation, don’t tend to visit their GP unless there’s something ‘really wrong’ physically and even then it tends to be a functional visit. Minimal talking, just get in and get out!
For me that is certainly true. I can’t remember visiting a doctor without a parent in tow until I was in my mid-twenties. By which stage, the barriers were up and getting me to open up about anything that wasn’t physical, became that bit harder. You just ask my wife! Besides, no one ever asked me about the workings in my head. You just didn’t in the 70’s and 80s, the risk of a stigma that could undermine one’s masculinity (drilled into you since birth), was just too great!
I know this is a somewhat broad view of things and no doubt there will be some academic out there that can give a more detailed analysis – however, I’ve brought it up here, because the reasoning discussed in that podcast, for the differences, has struck a chord with me personally.
Mental health and its relevance to me, only came onto my radar as a concept when due to an accumulation of business pressures, excessive drinking and unrealistic expectations of myself; I had what they used to call, a ‘breakdown’. This was some 12/13 years ago, and it did put me into weekly therapy sessions and on to medication for several months following ‘a severe depression’ diagnosis.
That therapy raised my self-awareness, opened my eyes if you like, to my own mental state both then and with hindsight, what I’d been experiencing throughout my teenage years. Those bouts of prolonged ‘low mood’ and ‘isolation’ could at last be explained. Well sort of!
I’ll be revisiting this very personal topic in future posts. For now though, keep well, I’m off to seek out some more of those mental health podcasts.
Image credits: various creators, all images licensed through Adobe Image Stock.