Mates & Mental Illness - Life Is Better Together

I’ll make a bet that for most men, talking about their mental health can be overwhelming and scary. Who can you trust? Who will take you seriously? Who will truly listen? When is a good time to bring it up? How much should you divulge?

We’re talking tips on how men can open up and talk about their mental health with their mates, without it feeling weird.

>Is it appropriate for men to share their mental health experiences with friends?
Yes, it’s appropriate and super important. Some guys may prefer to talk to a professional than they would to their family and friends, which is perfectly fine but bear in mind that those close to you know you the best and want you to be happy and healthy and opening up to them first is a positive step. Think how you would react if your mate wanted to talk to you? You’d be there for them, no questions asked, and they will be for you too. We are much more willing to give support than we are to ask for it, but there is always someone to talk to, and there will always be someone ready to listen to your story. Get the support you need from your people, talk about your issues, listen to the feedback and if you need further support or treatment, or help with a plan, then reach out to your professional.

>When is a good time to have the discussion? At work? At the pub?
Wherever you choose to have the conversation, just be sure that you feel safe and relaxed. Your mental health needs your full attention, so a loud pub could be quite difficult to have a meaningful conversation. At work you may feel uncomfortable or distracted with your colleagues around. A nice comfortable area would be best for you to express your feelings and start a conversation. Maybe try heading out for lunch, dinner, or even to the local coffee shop. The important thing is that you feel empowered and supported when you tell your story.

>What is a good way of starting the conversation?
It can feel overwhelming for most men to bring up mental health discussions with friends and family. The fear of the unknown and not wanting to look less ‘tough’. These worries and fears are what causes men to stop communicating. Mental health issues can stop us from interacting with other people, which is the last thing we need in this situation. We need to ‘man up’ and call it out. Maybe start with, “Hey, I’m really nervous to bring this up and I’m not sure where to start, but I could do with your help”. Or, “Hey, do you guys ever feel like you’re going through some tough mental issues at times?” Maybe let them open up first. Don’t ever tiptoe around the situation. Bring the worries out in the open and make them part of your conversation. The important thing is to tell someone, don’t keep it to yourself, call it out.

>What responses can you expect from your friends?
It may be hard to read some people and gauge their response to your statement or question; everyone is different, and some may not want to open up either. But if that person cares for you, there will be no negative reply, they will respond by wanting to help you. Usually, when one guy opens up about his mental health feelings, his mates will follow suit. It’s surprising how many of us feel it.

>What can you do to make it easier for your friends to support you?
If you’re the one suffering, step one is asking for help, and step two is accepting the support when it’s offered. As we mentioned earlier, we’re usually more willing to help others with mental health issues than to ask for or accept support. Mental health issues like depression, for example, can cause people to avoid reaching out and become reclusive and isolated, which makes things worse. The complexity of any mental health issue can stop men from gaining mental health treatment and getting better purely because they feel they can’t open up. You can help those supporting you by making the decision to listen to them, accept their support, and trust that they won’t be judging you.

>What if you get a negative response after sharing your experience with your mates?

There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding mental health. Although it’s talked about a lot more nowadays and more people understand it, there will always be negativity. Family and friends sometimes don’t know how to take it when someone opens up and surprises them with such content, especially if they are completely unaware and aren’t educated in this field. If you have received any defeatist comments about your mental health, make contact with a professional, someone who is paid to listen to your story, someone who is experienced in hearing tales like yours.

With today’s hectic pace of life, long work schedules, and family demands, many men find it challenging to find the time to sit and talk with their mates, but it’s so important. Spending more time with your people can boost your mental health and wellbeing, and that’s before you’ve opened up and talked about your stress points.

Talk to your people today. Pick up the phone, meet up, share a laugh and talk. Your feelings are valid, you don’t have to go through this alone. Find someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with, someone you know will listen to you without judgement, and go for it.

Life is better together.