November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, and International Men’s Day is November 19th.
This month, many organisations will raise awareness and celebrate all aspects of men’s health. We will be talking to members of our multidisciplinary team to get their insights into men’s health with guidance and advice.
This week we are focusing on Men’s Mental Health. We spoke to Fiona Southgate, who heads up our Psychology department. We asked her how to start a conversation with someone about their mental health.
She said, “Thinking about Men’s mental health shouldn’t be too different to thinking about our own. We know that men might be more reluctant to talk about their feelings. They may even struggle to recognise the emotions they are feeling, let alone be confident and comfortable enough to talk about them. Creating a comfortable and safe relationship with the gentlemen in our life will give them the right foundations to speak to should they want to.
Use what you know
Beginning with our own experiences, it might be possible to coax your friend or loved one’s experiences. It might be helpful to provide a verbal reflection on what you observe as a concerned friend or loved one. Something along the lines of “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem yourself; lately, you are quieter than usual. Is everything alright?”.
If this does not work for you or them or does not seem appropriate to the person or situation somehow, do not worry. Focusing on our mental ill health is not the only way to improve our mental health. We have a human tendency to focus on what we feel is not working or broken somehow, but we do not have to.
Mental and Physical well-being
Thinking about what is going well in our lives and doing more of it has been proven to make us feel better. Think about the things you and your friend or loved one enjoy doing together. Suppose it is simply meeting for a coffee. Why not increase the well-being benefits of doing that outside after a short walk in nature?
Increasing the time we spend in nature positively affects our well-being and reduces symptoms of depression. Aim to spend at least ten/fifteen minutes outside three times a week.
Physical activity has been shown to increase physical and mental health; combining walking with spending time outdoors will improve well-being and health benefits.
Talking about the times you have already spent together, thinking about positive past events, and savouring shared memories reduce symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness whilst also improving feelings of well-being.
Calling your friend if you cannot get them out of the house for a coffee will reduce feelings of loneliness and provide a positive connection that has been shown to improve mood and well-being. It can be challenging to talk with people who might be feeling depressed or anxious.
Memories can help
Talking about the times you have spent together, and savouring shared memories can reduce symptoms of depression and loneliness. Studies have also shown that reminiscing can improve feelings of well-being.
If you cannot persuade them to meet you for a coffee, try to call them. This will also reduce loneliness and provide a positive connection that can improve mood and well-being.
It can be challenging to talk with people who might be feeling depressed or anxious. Do not ignore the negative thoughts, but try to steer the conversation to positive past events and time spent together. Recall the story to your friend or loved one and talk about how it made you feel at the time, where you were, whether it was hot or cold, what was funny and how much you enjoyed the time together.
You could encourage your friend or loved one to agree to do the same thing again. Perhaps you might nurture a chuckle when talking about the memory; either way, focusing on past positive events and making plans for the future can increase well-being and shift the time focus to a positive past or hopeful future.”
Before you start this conversation, make sure that you are ready.
Are you in the right state of mind? Don’t start this conversation if you have limited time or are feeling low. How will it affect your mental health if they don’t want to discuss theirs with you? If you ask them how they’re doing, be prepared for them to say “fine” or ‘not good”. Above all, just be yourself, and don’t spend ages reading up on mental health disorders and getting all the jargon right. You are not a therapist, your friend or loved one is not expecting you to solve their problems.