One in four people are affected by mental health problems yet the stigma that comes with the words ‘mental health’ hasn’t seem to change that much.
Not only that, what I hear from my client’s a lot is that their family, friends and people they generally socialise do not understand exactly what ‘mental health’ means. That can leave them isolated, withdrawn and can have serious impact to their wellbeing.
Time to Talk Day on 6th February encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.
So, how can one be more open about their mental health problems? Since, I have a private practice and I also help NHS clients, there are two significant issues I see which would need to be addressed first before people with mental health problems are ready to open up about their struggles
1. Awareness as to what constitutes to mental health issues
2. Normalising the subject so that people, especially men, feel more comfortable to talk about their feelings.
Whilst the subject of mental health has been topical for quite some time, there is still a lot of misconceptions around the issue. Mental health covers problems such as stress and anxiety, which 1 in 6 people experience to some of the more severe problems, such as personality disorders and psychotic illnesses. The likelihood therefore is that people you see today, who run their household, go to work, have hobbies, walk their dogs are all people that might be struggling with some part of their mental health. They are everyday people, like me and you. Not people to be avoided or scared of.
One of the biggest concerns I have as a therapist is seeing so few men talking about their feelings. We still seem to live in a society where man’s job is to go to work, feed their family. Be this ‘macho man’ not vulnerable and show their feelings. At the same time, we are emotional creatures and we need to express ourselves because if we don’t, it can often surface through resentment, anger and in worse cases, withdrawal, alcohol and drug abuse and suicidal thoughts.
The statistics show that women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and it makes sense 9 clients out of 10 are women.
The thing is that it is not that men don’t struggle with mental health problems, it is, in my opinion, that men don’t go to the doctors to get diagnosed because of the stigma attached to expressing their feelings and mental health. It is therefore crucial that we begin to normalise men talking about feelings and encourage them to let their guard down and take time to talk.
We as a society, need to shift our focus from living in a cave as hunter gatherers, where men had a certain part in the heard and provide them more space to safely express their feelings and struggles without judgement. We need to recognise that men have been put under enormous pressures to be ‘certain way’ for centuries which has resulted men being 78% of the statistics that take their own life.
It is our responsibility to take a step back from our busy lives, notice and recognise the struggles that could be happening to our loved ones and encourage them to take time to talk.
Laura Lohk is a transformational therapist and coach helping people to identify and eliminate unconscious and conscious blocks from the root so that they can increase their mind and body wellbeing. For more information, please visit www.lauralohk.com