Let me start with this: I am not a man, nor have I ever considered myself “male”.
You might be thinking, reading this, that as such I am absolutely unqualified to be writing on the subject of men’s mental health. And in a way, you’d be completely right: I have no idea what it’s like to be a man with a mental health issue. I can’t even imagine being part of the 11% of men worldwide who have an eating disorder, or 10% of new fathers who may suffer from postnatal depression. I’ve never been told that I can’t express concerns about my own mental health because of the gender I was born into – or, in the more common and the less explicit sense, had it implied that my gender makes me incapable of having something as prevelant as depression or anxiety.
So no, I can’t empathise with the 1 in 8 men in the UK alone who will experience a mental health problem. But I can sympathise, and that’s important. I also know that I am not alone in this: every working day I find myself surrounded by colleagues, clinical and administrative, who I am proud to say are involved in the fight to make men’s voices heard. They may not all be on Twitter, retweeting #itsokaytotalk selfies, or taking part in Movember – put I have no doubt that they have their client’s best interests at heart, male or female, and that this is reflected in the incredible work that they do.
When I was wondering how to complete this blog – what message did I want to end with? Did I want to make a call to action? – I found myself thinking of my wonderful colleagues, and how they help the small percentage of men with mental health problems that find themselves at our door. I know that we aren’t all therapists, but I think maybe it would be wise that we all take a leaf out of their books and just listen, without judgement and with compassion for the speaker, regardless as to whether that person has a Y chromosome.
So I think that’s how I’d like to end this. In my small part in the ongoing struggle to have men’s mental health acknowledged and represented both in the mental health world and in the social one, I would like to encourage us to listen to one another. Women, continue to listen to the men in your lives and treat them with compassion as you would wish to receive from others; men, continue to listen to the men in your lives and treat yourself with the compassion that you would wish to receive from others. It might not be the solution to this crucial issue, but it’d certainly be a start.