Mind Your Mind – Awareness of Mental Health
Warning- this blog discusses topics around suicide, depression, mental health.
With Mental Health Awareness month commencing in May, and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, this topic can be very sensitive and hard to talk about. Mental Health Awareness month is important to help us look out for the many ways that mental illness can affect lives of individuals, educate people on the services that are available to help them, and ways to support those who struggle with their mental health. Whatever the case may be, for a lot of people, this topic can hit very close to home (me included).
It’s important that we look after ourselves, especially after the COVID-19 Pandemic.
From worrying about the health of our loved ones; the stability of our jobs bereavement and loss, or simply feeling isolated and lonely, the pandemic has impacted us all in some way. Healthy Ireland released a survey report in 2021, and despite many people reporting positive mental health (highest among 25 to 34 years old), this should not, however, hide the fact that there are still people out there, male or female, who are struggling with their mental health. The report also showed that 30% of respondents said that their mental health had gotten worse during the pandemic.
In Ireland, 524 deaths were caused by suicide in 2019. More than one third of these suicides between 2015 and 2019 were by people aged 45 to 64 years old. A study from 2022 found that men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women.
So, why don’t some men seek help for their mental health?
Reasons why some men might not seek help when struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can vary. Reina Gattuso (talk space) discusses how men and women can express mental illness differently, as women are more likely to talk about their feelings in comparison to men.
Toxic masculinity, masculine stereotypes (being ‘tough’, ‘the man of the house’, ‘boys don’t cry’) can also be the reasons why men don’t seek help. They don’t want to be a burden. They also have less opportunities to visit their GP’s than their female counterparts, self-medicate through drugs and alcohol, which in turn can increase blood pressure, and the risk of certain cancers (like mouth, liver, and prostate) that are common in men.
Gender Specific Health Programmes
Ireland’s Men’s Health Policy
First published in 2008, the National Men’s Health Policy is an important step in promoting both the health and well being of all men in Ireland.
Men on the Move (MOM)
This is a wellness programme with the focus being physical activity, and purpose engaging men in their health and improving both their health and wellbeing. A study done by Kathleen Mikkelsen states that exercise is shown to contribute to better health outcomes in people struggling with mental health.
The Irish Men’s Shed’s Association (IMSA)
The IMSA is an organisation that supports over 450 men’s sheds on the Island of Ireland. A ‘men’s shed’ is a place where men come together to share their skills, learn from one another, and most importantly, make long lasting friendships. The IMSA runs ‘Sheds for Life’, a programme that promotes the health and wellbeing of men by doing cooking classes, exercise classes and workshops on various topics- including bereavement and loss, cancer, oral health, and mental health.
I am currently on work placement with the association, and I got to meet with LBS Men’s Shed in Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, a shed that is in fact quite local to me. With members ranging from 20 to 70 years of age, Mental Health is the top priority of LBS Men’s Shed, since first opening as a men’s support group in 2012. It’s a social outlet for many of their members.
I was blown away to hear that they fundraised six thousand euro for the Pieta House in September 2022, rowed in the River Liffey for charity, and they featured on Bressie’s Podcast “Where is my Mind?” and spoke about Toxic Masculinity (available on Spotify if you’re interested to have a listen!)
I had the privilege of to meet and speak to some of the members. One of the members, Mark Larkin, emphasised that the Men’s Shed was a place where they got together, for any reason at all. Other members told me that going to the shed was something for them to look forward to during the week, as some of them lived alone, and the Men’s Shed was a solid foundation of support in their daily lives.
What can you do to help someone?
With a list made by spunout.ie, here is what you can do to help someone struggling with their mental health.
1). Ask and listen- encourage them to talk- some people have no idea how much this could help someone.
2). Encourage them to seek help- encourage them to go to a doctor, or a counsellor. They may have already made a start on these steps. Why not check in and make sure they are going to their appointments or ask them how things are going. Maybe even go with them to that first appointment if they need extra support.
3). Let them know you support them- having someone to lend an ear when they need to vent, who will listen no matter how many times they say the same things over and over again can be a huge help!
4). Text or give them a call- some people find it hard to talk about how they feel face to face- texting, emails, Facebook, Instagram- any form of communication can help.
5). Do things together- go for a walk to their favourite place. Go out to eat, go to the cinema, watch a movie in the comfort of their own home. Visit places- the park, the beach, or museums. Encourage them to continue their favourite hobbies by doing it with them- whether that be recommending a book you think they’ll like, go to an art gallery, do some drawing, get a band of people together to play a team sport. If you notice them drinking a lot, or using drugs, try encouraging them to stop- these don’t help with depression.
What to do for mental health awareness week/suicide prevention week.
Wear a green ribbon… or dress it up!
It’s not St Patricks Day, but maybe wear a little bit of green to show your support to Mental Health Awareness, even something small (green earrings, green bandana or scarf). You may have seen people wear green ribbons (which can also be seen as badges) at certain times of the year, or maybe see them on TV Adverts or on posters in train stations. These green ribbons are symbols of mental health awareness and worn in memory of a loved one.
Donate to a charity.
There are plenty of charities out there to donate to- to help in improve mental health facilities, hospitals, services, or to raise awareness.
Light a candle in memory of a loved one, or for everyone who had lost their lives.
Sometimes a simple gesture goes a very long way- on world suicide prevention day, light a candle at night in memory of a loved one, or for anyone who has lost their lives. Do it at home, and leave it at a window sill with the curtains open. Or light a candle if you’re visiting the local church, or passing by.
If you are struggling or know someone who is struggling with their mental health, please find a list of helplines below.
AWARE- 1800 80 48 48
PIETA HOUSE- 1800 247 247 (24 hour crisis helpline) 51444 (text HELP)
SMARAITINS Ireland- 116 123
Friends of Suicide Loss (FOSL) offers support services. If you have been bereaved by suicide, you can contact them at (01) 492 7576, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUGG also support and offer information for those bereaved by suicide (01 513 4048).