Men’s Health Week takes place from 15th to 21st June this year. The week raises awareness of particular health issues that disproportionately affect men and encourages men to seek regular medical advice. While this year’s official theme is ‘Take action on COVID-19’, we think the discussion of men’s mental health and how it relates to work is as important as ever during this challenging time.
We asked one of BizSpace’s Mental Health First Aiders, Travis Brown, to share with us why he is passionate about men’s mental health and the reasons he became a Mental Health First Aider at BizSpace. The Mental Health First Aiders group is made up of a small team of BizSpace employees located across the UK, who volunteer to raise awareness and ensure their colleagues have support and the opportunity to speak with someone should they seek help with their mental health. Here's what Travis said.
“Before I start I’d like to stress that I’m not solely interested in the health of men. I believe gender has no role in whether someone deserves to be well or happy - everyone should have access to the support they need, whenever they need it. That’s why I volunteered to be a Mental Health First Aider at BizSpace, as mental health issues have affected me personally and indirectly in three key ways throughout my life so far.
When I was very young, my father was a psychiatric nurse for a few years. He was not just paying the bills - he also had a genuine interest in mental health - which he still has now despite not having worked in the field for over 35 years. I remember his stories from work always fascinated me, but were stained with the sadness of reality.
I have known people who have taken their own lives due to poor mental health, so I know first-hand the truly extreme end of the scale and the devastation that can be caused, not just for the individual but also for the families and friends left behind. Sadly, assistance is not always a saviour, but my philosophy is that we should all try to help however possible, rather than wondering when it’s too late: “What could I have done to change this?”
For as long as I can remember I have suffered from anxiety, but I’ve only really gained an understanding of the disorder in the last 10 years. For me, at my worst, it can bring about states similar to depression. I’ve found that educating myself on anxiety helps me keep it under control, as well as function better in the workplace and in social situations. I’ve come to learn that there’s no ‘magic fix’ to permanently banish the symptoms, merely ways of processing them and figuring out what coping methods work, but my knowledge and experience allows me to empathise with and help other sufferers.
Delving into the statistics of mental health, it’s obvious how staggeringly more at risk men are as a subsection of our nation. If we are to improve the current figures, men, as a rule, will require much more education and inspiration when it comes to mental health awareness.
Due to antiquated and unfortunately present ideas of gender roles in our society, men are still less likely to seek help for any physical or mental issues. For many, this is seen as a sign of weakness: ‘If teenage boys could fight in WWII without crying to a nurse or psychiatrist then I am pretty sure I can suck it up and keep working without bothering a doctor - or anyone else - with how I feel’.
Those that share the above viewpoint are unaware of the long-lasting and devastating mental effects that many men suffered as a result of the traumas witnessed and experienced in war. For example, If our society was more educated on these issues during World War II, then much pivotal work could have been done to prevent the extent of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), domestic abuse, broken marriages, alcoholism, unemployment and suicide that followed the war.
Men also make up the vast majority of the UK’s prison population. Mental health issues, including self-harm, are rife in these institutions. Whilst the incarceration itself could be the cause of some of these, there is argument that the crime which led that inmate to be incarcerated could often have been avoided if issues with self-esteem or hopelessness had been recognised prior.
In the UK, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day. This is particularly strong in men who are struggling financially: ‘What sort of man am I if I can’t provide for my family?’ is a common viewpoint in today’s society. Due to established gender roles and men still being perceived as the ‘breadwinner’, the urge to take on too much responsibility, never seek help and to just ‘muck on’ is perpetuated by these outdated views on manhood.
Education needs to play a lead role in addressing the gender imbalance in mental health statistics. That’s why nationally recognised days, weeks and months like Men’s Health Week and Mental Health Awareness Week are so important. Together we can help others beat the tragedies that mental health issues so often cause.”
For immediate help or if you are feeling suicidal, call the Samaritans on 116 123 at any time - it’s free from any phone.
If you are worried about someone else, click here.
Advice and seeking help during COVID-19:
Find out more on dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency here.