We have all found lockdown a struggle and the impact on the nation’s mental health is undeniable.
But when it comes to dealing with issues of anxiety, depression or stress, many men are still reluctant to get help or speak to people about their struggles.
Now a host of celebrities from Sir Elton John to Harry Kane have spoken out in MAN magazine, raising awareness of the stigma around mental health for International Men’s Day today.
Here some of the stars give their advice, answer questions about dealing with problems in life and how they’ve dealt with their most difficult moments…
“You are not alone and you are loved. This has been an unprecedented year but I want you to know that it is okay to admit you are struggling and need some help. We need to talk about mental health to normalise the conversation, especially with men.
“I am thinking of you if you are struggling and hope you find healing love and support.”
“You’re not alone in your struggle, however much you may feel it now. Trust me when I say the day will come when you will hug yourself for winning the struggle and staying up and on your feet. Damn it’s hard, but damn it’s worth it.”
“I want to encourage anyone suffering from mental health issues to seek the support they need. There’s no shame in it. We all need to ask for help sometimes.”
“Many men still have issues opening up. But it’s getting better. Male suicide and other factors are becoming more known, and men are getting better at talking to each other. But, you need to ask somebody how they are twice.”
“It’s really important that as men we open up and talk to each other. There’s so much pressure on us all, especially now, so we have to take the time to talk, and to listen.”
“We all have highs and lows, it’s completely natural and part of life for everyone. It’s important to have a support network around you and to be brave enough to ask for help when you need it. We all need help at different points in our lives.”
Q. As an elite athlete you have to be mentally as well as physically strong. But what techniques or coping mechanisms do you rely on when feeling low away from the tennis court?
A. For me it’s really important to have regular contact with my family. I used to get really down about losses, whereas now I’m a little bit more measured in how I process my results. A quick FaceTime with my children usually does the trick. The last three years have been tough, different injuries and not being sure I would ever play tennis again – my family really helped me get through it.
Q. Is there any advice you can give to those who may be struggling with down days, and their overall mental health?
A. I know it’s a saying that gets used a lot, but it’s absolutely ok, not to be ok. Mental health is something we all need to take care of, it’s as important as our physical health and is the driving force behind our motivations so don’t be afraid to talk to someone you trust.
One thing I’ve found over the years is that it is completely normal to find things hard sometimes and that quite often the bravest thing you can do isn’t to bottle things or sweep them under the carpet – but it’s actually having the courage to ask for help.
Q. The term ‘mental health’ sometimes gets a bad rap. What do you personally associate with it?
A. For me, mental health is the same as physical health – it’s something that has to be worked on. We live in a time where we are dominated by external influences, through our culture, not all of which are positive.
We are primarily targeted as consumers. From every direction we are being invited to turn to our lower instincts: fear, greed and lust. All of these ideas are unconsciously promoted. We’re divided through social media and belittled by advertising.
So, mental health is something we can no longer be unconscious about. I believe we are all on a spectrum of mental health, so it’s really about striking the right balance and finding a practical way to do that.
Q. Would you say your experience with mental health issues has supported you in your personal development?
Personal development and mental health are inseparable. I would say the primary thing that’s helped me is my 12-step program, which I worked around drugs, alcohol, sex and porn addiction. It moves me from a place of unconscious behaviours to awareness. It starts with admitting you have a problem around your behaviour with drugs, alcohol or eating, then you address it through the 12 steps, believing it’s possible to change, and consulting with people who have made that change.
Q. What would you say helps you to overcome the stigma attached to depression?
A. I suppose, with depression, it is the acknowledgment that it is okay to feel this way. I regularly feel sad and despairing, so I can’t afford to be stigmatised.
If I feel depressed about work, or feel depressed about other people’s feelings about me, or that I can’t cope, or that I’m not good enough, I turn to other people that are walking the same path as me – people that have more experience and less experience than me so we can share our experiences and learn from each other.
Q. Mental health is not just a challenge for the sufferers but also for carers, friends, family members, partners of those suffering…
A. I try not to make my wife solely responsible for my mental wellbeing. Although we are partners in the raising of our children and our shared goals as a family, I know that I have a complex set of needs (as I imagine all people do), so I turn to other people.
Here are some places you can reach out to for support if you or someone in your life is struggling:
Mental Health First Aid: mhfa.com.au
National Health Service: nhs.uk
British Association of Anger Management: angermanage.co.uk
Drink Aware: drinkaware.co.uk
Gamble Aware: begambleaware.org
Anxiety UK: anxietyuk.org.uk
Strongmen Charity: strongmen.org.uk
Work: Most companies have a designated first aider, and more are assigning mental health first aiders, counsellors, therapists, or psychologists that either visit on particular days or are employed.
Remember all your meetings are confidential.
Banks: The qualified staff at your bank can help if you are dealing with debt or financial pressure.
Ask for advice at your bank’s help desk, or visit the respective website of your bank for further advice.
Read this issue of MAN Magazine at: www.manmagazineuk.co.uk