It feels like we talk more about Mental Health these days, and that is a great thing. But it also feels like we don’t really talk about it. I have had lots of conversations with people about the topic of Mental Health, in particular Male Mental Health. I sometimes talk about my Mental Health, with some friends I talk regularly about their Mental Health. But the majority of conversations are just Mental Health themed.
So I will start by saying, I have Mental Health and my Mental Health is similar to my Physical Health. Sometimes I am good, others bad others OK or not really thinking about it.
Similarly to my physical health sometimes I will say that I am not feeling great, others I will keep it to myself. In part this is I guess because I am a Yorkshire male of a certain age and so preprogrammed not to talk about such things, in part its because I kind of think no one is interested.
In truth I am really lucky, my issues are fairly low level, I have some social anxiety, a number of small OCD like tendencies and a very short temper, which can lead to me overthinking my actions.
The main issue that affects my Mental Health is my insomnia. This is a topic that over the last few years I have become more open about. I have suffered since I was in my early teens (so at the time of writing about 33 years), there was no trigger, it just started.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you will have seen me posting pictures, and being quite open about how I feel, how exhausted I am etc. I am not going to go into too much detail here as I will do a follow on post about my insomnia in the coming weeks (also considering doing a series of posts when it is bad – any thoughts?)
What I think is really important is that I am being more open about my Mental Health and feelings. I think it is crucial that people start to see people speaking more normally about Mental Health, in the same way they would about Physical Health.
There is lots that we can all do to show that we care about other peoples Mental Health. I see lots of people sharing posts on Social Media, some linking to articles, some with infographics or links to organisations, others just letting people know you are there for them if they need it.
That for me is one of the key things that we can do. Be there for others. There are oh so many ways that we can do that. Sharing things as mentioned above. Asking people how they are, listening and responding. Raising awareness of issues, passing on hints and discussing what has worked for you.
The one thing I do a lot, is to check in on people. Maybe in person, perhaps a call, maybe a text. Whatever it is, just a simple Hey, How you doing?
Letting people know that someone cares and is willing to take time to have a conversation, in a way that is suitable for and supportive of you. Those questions don’t necessarily need answering, but if you don’t answer a couple I will get more persistent across different methods.
I know when I am feeling low that someone asking me how I am and listening really really helps me. I don’t want or need anything from that person (though sometimes ‘do you want to meet for coffee and cake or a walk is great to hear).
When I feel low, I enter a state where the thought of doing things, going for a walk, or a coffee, a night out, a meal, popping to a pals house, sound really good. I really want to do them. But then as the time gets closer, I don’t want to. I want to stay home, in my comfy shorts and T shirt, on the couch.
This then makes me feel worse, as I then know that I am the flaky friend and I am letting people down. What counters that is knowing that people know that this is standard behaviour for me when I feel low, and how to respond. Tell me it’s ok, we will catch up soon. Tell me you have brownies (probably will make me come). But most of all just let me know that you understand, that it doesn’t affect our relationship.
Knowing that people understand, or more importantly *want* to understand is a big thing.
So I have told you a lot about me. I plan to tell you more, I have plans for a whole series of Mental Health posts. Hopefully some of this will have resonated. Either about yourself, maybe it has highlighted behaviour some of your friends exhibit, maybe it has just given food for thought.
The two main things I wanted to achieve with this post were to say (as I often do) it is OK to not be OK, that it is ok to talk about it and it is ok to ask for help. Asking for help shows strength. Also that people are there, care and want to help however they can.
My ask of everyone who reads this, stay open minded, keeping supporting your friends, keep talking about Mental Health. We never know when we will be the person who needs support.