Men’s health series: Let’s talk about mental health
With suicide being the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 35 and around 13 men in the UK taking their own life every day, there is no doubt that we are currently facing more than one health emergency.
12.5% of men suffer from one of the common mental health problems and statistics show that in 2019, the suicide rates in Wales and England was at its highest for two decades.
The Coronavirus impact on mental health
Although it’s still unclear what impact the coronavirus lockdown has had on suicide rates throughout 2020, a study led by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that mental wellbeing is being largely affected by COVID-19 due to social isolation and the additional economic pressures it presents. What’s more, statisticians suggest that high suicide rates among middle-aged men is likely a result of economic hardship, isolation and alcoholism, all of which are likely to be heightened throughout the pandemic.
Looking out for yourself, your loved ones and your mates
Throughout 2020, life as we know it has been completely turned upside down and being isolated from our friends and family possesses its own challenges. Not only is it hard to judge how others are feeling, but you may also be experiencing your own ups and downs on the ‘Coronacoaster.’ Which is why, checking in with mates has never been more important, for your own mental health, and for theirs too.
Opening up and reaching out
Men aren’t always comfortable when it comes to opening up about their feelings and often suffer in silence. “Being a man” can often be viewed as being “strong,” “manning up” or “just getting on with it” and so anxiety and depression can creep up on you. Opening up about how you feel doesn’t make you weak, in fact, it can be one of the hardest things do. It’s important to recognise the mental health signals in yourself and in your mates too.
The Movember charity has developed a guide called ALEC, offering tips on how to check in with your mates and what to say if you are worried about their emotional wellbeing. It all starts with asking…
Dropping a simple text, asking “How are you doing?” can help spark a conversation between you and your friend to let him know you’re there. If you have noticed any changes in his behaviour, for example, they’ve gone quiet in the group chat, or they haven’t been replying to your messages recently, mention it to them and that you are worried.
Listen to what they have to say. Let him know you’re hearing and understanding what he has to say without judgment. Continue the conversation by saying something like, “That’s tough, – how long have you felt this way?”.
Encourage your mate to focus on actions that might help improve how he feels. Does he need to improve his sleep patterns? Try exercising? Or suggest listening to a Podcast. There’s plenty of mental health podcasts available that can help him feel less alone with his feelings. If he’s been feeling low for a number of weeks, suggests that he sees a GP.
Check in on your mate. Drop him a text to follow up on your conversation with how he’s doing, or if a lockdown isn’t in place, suggest going for a socially distanced walk.
Getting help for you or a friend
You don’t need to be a mental health expert or the sole solution to your mate’s problems, but by simply being there and listening to your mate, it can help them on their journey to getting better.
If you are concerned about your mental health, or your mate’s mental health, contact your GP (or encourage your mate to contact theirs). Like most practices, we are currently offering e-consultations or telephone appointments and will decide whether you need to be seen in person during the appointment. We can refer or direct you to the most appropriate help, including psychological therapy.
If it’s a mental health emergency
The NHS urgent mental health helplines provide 24-hour advice and support. The local phone numbers for the NHS crisis team are 01685 726952 and 01443 444388.
Or you can contact Samaritans by calling, 116 123 day or night
You can also contact one of the following organisations for support
There are also some brilliant local organisations including Valleys Steps who provide support to the Merthyr Tydfil, RCT and Bridgend areas. Take a look at some of their upcoming online workshops, that offer digital mindfulness and stress management sessions.
There is also MIND, who offer information and support online and over the phone. You can speak to someone over the phone by calling 0300 123 3393.
There are organisations who specifically support men and their mental wellbeing
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35. Call, 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm – midnight)
Men’s Health Forum offers 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
The Movember Charity offer recourses on how to talk about your mental health as well as how to encourage your friends to open up too.
And remember, we’re here to help
We take mental health seriously here at Morlais and have dedicated members of staff to help patients with mild mental health problems. Our GP Support Officers (GPSOs) are trained to assess patients with symptoms related to mental health and are able to refer patients on to psychological therapy. For more serious issues requiring medication, our GPs are all experienced in dealing with mental health problems and are easily contactable by phone.
To find out more about taking care of your mental health visit our recent blog: The importance of looking after your mental wellbeing