Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 and an insight into men’s mental health

*DISCLAIMER* – mention of suicide

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – stress

From Monday 14th May through to Friday 18th May 2018, it was Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, using the hashtag #MHAW18 on social media. The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was stress. Given the time of year – with numerous deadlines and upcoming exams – this is an especially stressful time for students. Therefore, stressed is something we are all feeling currently. Certain amounts of stress are usually a positive thing; however it is important to recognise when stress becomes a problem and begins to affect our everyday lives. Physically, stress can affect us in a variety of ways. The Mind website says: “You might find that your first clues about being stressed are physical signs, such as tiredness, headaches or an upset stomach. There could be many reasons for this, as when we feel stressed we often find it hard to sleep or eat well, and poor diet and lack of sleep can both affect our physical health. This in turn can make us feel more stressed emotionally.” If you do feel as though stress is interfering with everyday life, there are lots of things you can do to calm down. Simple things include going for a walk, cooking a nice meal, or taking some time out to relax and do something you enjoy – reading, colouring, watching your favourite TV show or film. Talking about how you’re feeling to friends and family is also useful, or go and chat with Swansea University Students’ Union’s Advice and Support Centre.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 also saw a historic first take place with the Mental Health Minute. At 10:59a.m., on Tuesday 15th May 2018, hundreds of UK wide radio stations came together to broadcast this #MentalHealthMinute. From the Heads Together (Heads Together is a mental health initiative spearheaded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health with fundraising for a series of innovative new mental health services)  website, the Mental Health Minute was “a one-minute message from some world famous voices to let everyone know that whoever you are, however you’re feeling and whatever you’re going through, it’s okay to say.” Those who came together to take part included The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Lady Gaga and Dame Judi Dench.

An insight into men’s mental health

We’ve most likely either all encountered a mental health problem – whether that’s suffering from one or more ourselves, or supporting a friend or a family member with a mental health problem. Creating a dialogue around mental health is something that is becoming increasingly encouraged by mental health charities, for example. We are gradually becoming more open when speaking out about mental health. The question that remains, however, is why is there still such a stigma surrounding men talking about their mental health?

According to the mental health charity Mind’s website, men are still faced with outdated stereotypes, not helped by the media – they are “still faced with some outdated stereotypes as a man suffering from depression; men as a source of strength, dominating positions of power, the hunter-gatherer, the idea that strong and silent is alluring/attractive, the “show no weakness” bravado of heroes in our media. In many of these macho images, there is little room for showing poor mental health. The men who are most revered in society (famous, wealthy, successful, powerful) are not always ready to admit their struggles in public and that can leave the “average bloke” feeling uncertain about speaking out.”

It is clear that there is a problem with men feeling as though they are unable to talk about their mental health and how they are feeling. Shocking statistics show that suicide is the biggest killer of men who are under 45 years old. Furthermore, in 2015, 75% of all UK suicides were male. To raise awareness of this, earlier this year, the ITV studios in London unveiled 84 male figures on their rooftop. As part of a campaign called Project-84, this seeks to raise awareness of the fact that 84 men in Britain lose their lives to suicide each week. Even more recently, the ITV soap Coronation Street ran a storyline which involved a male suicide. It is evident that more needs to be done in order to help men in particular feel as though they can be open and honest about their mental health.

It is also apparent that things are being done to reduce and break the stigma that surrounds male mental health. There are charities that have been set up specifically to raise awareness and to provide support for male mental health, including CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). There are also leading mental health activists who are male and speak openly about mental health. The previously mentioned Heads Together campaign is indeed spearheaded by two of arguably the most important Royals in our country – The Duke of Cambridge, together with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and his brother, Prince Harry. A perhaps lesser known but by no means less important male mental health activist is Paul McGregor. He speaks very openly about losing his Dad to suicide when he was just eighteen years old, and how this affected him and his mental health. He states on his website that “My mission is to show men that it’s ok to talk about their mental health. My mission is to share my personal story and experiences to help others understand that speaking is strength. Mental health affects 1 in 4 people. Suicide is the biggest killer of men and young people in the UK. It’s time to change.” Paul is very active on his Facebook page in sharing stories and videos about mental health.

Student Minds also recently undertook a Men’s Mental Health blogging series, encouraging male University students to write about their experiences. As a student, it is practically simple to get involved with speaking out about mental health, whether that’s fundraising for a mental health charity, writing for a mental health blog – the options are endless. The more we all come together to speak about mental health, hopefully, the easier it’ll feel for anyone to open up about it.

“Depression, anxiety, personality disorders and schizophrenia are no more or less difficult based on whether you’ve got a Y chromosome in your DNA.”

by Emily Maybanks



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