Generally speaking, most men don’t want to talk about their personal problems. Often, this lack of emotional “exposure” stems from childhood when they have been told “be a man” and” big boys don’t cry”. However, big boys do cry but often when nobody can hear or see them. Many men would not dream of reaching out and talking about their problems and would rather go to the dentist and have a tooth extracted without anaesthetic than open up and talk about the problem. Could this lack of willingness or confidence to reach out, be why (according to the UK’s office of national statistics) males accounted for 75% of suicide deaths in 2020. These statistics were similar around the world including USA and Canada and highest rates were in the age range 45-64. It’s human to feel emotions. Laughing is an emotion, happiness is an emotion – they’re ok. So why shouldn’t crying and feeling sad be ok too?
We can all think of issues that women face that make them sad, anxious and depressed including self-image issues, relationship break ups, bereavement, emotional upsets and feelings of worthlessness etc. For some these may be caused by hormonal issues related to changes in the body i.e., after childbirth or menopause, or they could be mental health issues including clinical depression which often needs medical help and counselling.
Challenges facing men
But what about men? What issues could they be facing? Many issues could be similar to those faced by women. Men can have crisis issues relating to self-worth, body image, self-confidence, relationship breakups etc. They may have lost their job, been made redundant and feel pressure to be the family’s main provider. There may have been a major trauma which could have been in the past and now presents itself as PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. There are a host of potential problems they could be facing but they just chose to keep them to themselves.
Regardless of gender, bottling up your emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, suppression can lead to serious health issues. In the short term it can impact on memory loss, lack of libido, IBS, anxiety, anger and depression. Longer term it can lead to stomach ulcers, diabetes and heart disease.
Some of the warning signs – what to look out for?
- mood – obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- level of energy
- sleeping pattern
- increased alcohol consumption or illegal drugs
- behaviour restless/emotionally low/agressive
When you have a partner or a friend who is suffering, it can be challenging for you too. How do you approach the subject when they clearly don’t want to talk? It’s like walking on broken glass to try and open the conversation. This can put a strain on most relationships as we are all human and think they are just moody and unreasonable when in fact there could be deep rooted issues. But how do you get the conversation going and an acceptance that it’s ok to talk.
Patience is key – there could be long silences and conversations that stop and start as they get more difficult or get close to an issue.
Listen – be prepared to listen and not butt in or offer opinions as that will put the brakes on the conversation.
Don’t judge – whatever is being said could only be surface level and your partner or friend may be seeing if you react before continuing.
Confidential – your partner, or friend needs to feel safe in the knowledge what is said is not about to be repeated to your best friend or family.
Don’t take it personally – maybe something includes you and if it does just listen, don’t take it personally or get into a discussion which would likely lead to an argument.
Professional help – if you have managed to get some conversation going, it could be the time to engage professional help. There is no stigma attached to talking confidentially with a professional in fact making that choice to step forward is the first step in understanding that it’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and being in control.
BE KIND TO YOUR MIND – TAKE CONTROL