From one man to another - Look after your mental health
I didn’t tell anyone, including my own mother and father, how I felt when I was experiencing the worst of my depression. Infact, the thought of ending my own life seemed easier than facing up to telling someone how I was feeling.
I look back now and can’t believe that’s what was going through my head. If you are reading this now and feel similar, or you know someone who might be, speaking out may feel like the biggest hurdle to cross for you (or them), but it’s one of the most rewarding. It really is. It’s out there then. No more hiding. No more worrying. No more trying to put on a brave face all the time. And infact, chances are, the person you tell would have already gone through something themselves, or would know someone close to them who has. You really are not alone, despite how you might feel right now.
76% of people who suffer with a mental illness will still not seek help (according to the HSE), and 1 in 4 of us will suffer at some stage. That’s so wrong. On that basis, out of 100 people, 25 will experience depression or anxiety. Out of that 25, only 6 will seek support, with 19 not seeking any support.
Looking back, I wish I spoke out sooner than what I did. I felt like my life was on autopilot until that day. I’d wake up every day feeling the same, and go to bed feeling as if I’d want the world to swallow me up. As soon as I spoke out and told someone how I felt, I remember sleeping soundly for the first time in ages. Someone else understood. I wasn’t alone and it felt so good to not just read that, but hear someone close to me say it.
It was a long road though. Someone would say ‘I’m always here to talk if you need it’, and I’d reply with a smile ‘Yeah, thanks, I’m alright’. That was another hurdle I had to get over—male pride. Before I spoke out, I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I didn’t have to at all. I worried a lot, and I didn’t need to. I felt embarrassed, but I shouldn’t have done. It frustrates me now thinking there must be so many men out there who want help, but just don’t know how to ask for it. Little do you realise how many people close to you would love to be able to help you if only they knew.
What should I look out for?
Low self-esteem is very common with mental illness. That in turn impacts on the rest of your thought/decision making process, which is why it’s so much harder to find the courage to speak out. Being hard on yourself, being quite sensitive compared to usual, and feeling annoyed or angry, but without knowing exactly why, are all common traits someone who has anxiety or depression may feel.
It can often be very difficult to ‘spot’ a mental illness, but we can all be more mindful in looking at the signs and seeing if we can help before it’s needed. When you do think someone could do with a bit of support, here are the things you need to consider.
The light at the end of the tunnel is MUCH closer than you think.
As I’ve said, first thing first, speak to someone. Tell them how you feel and share your pain. The door is then open, that person knows how you are feeling, and you can be ‘yourself’ without having to put on a brave face. That’s the best thing I ever did.
Secondly, see your GP. This is a very stereotypical thing for me to say, but given my experience, I’ll say it - try and see a young GP if you can. There seems to be a lot more awareness/understanding of mental health issues in GP training, specifically over the past 10 years. This means the ‘new blood’ of GPs (those in their 30s) tend to be more helpful to people like you and I. As I say, a very stereotypical thing for me to say, but something that seems quite common and that I experienced myself. Your GP may well ask you to complete something called the GAD7 and PHQ9, which is 16 multiple choice questions to screen for your anxiety or depression. This will roughly tell them how severe your situation is, so that they know what the next steps should be. Depending on how you feel, you will be referred to your local IAPT service (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), given anti-depressant medication, or referred to another counselling/therapy service.
Lastly, do not give up. If you’ve completed the first two steps you’ll be well on the road to recovery with the right support around you. You need to be pro-active as much as everyone else, and you’ve already conquered the biggest hurdles. Either way, do what is best for YOU. Do some research online. Visit charity websites to see what they recommend. Join support groups. Download some recommended apps. Invest time in yourself.
The next parts are easy. Trust me, I’ve been there.
You are not alone and you never will be. Seeking support was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it changed my life forever.