Having immersed myself in all things mental health since I went off work due to my mental health injury, I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many people who suffer in the darkened shadows of their workplaces and communities, living in fear of how the stigma of mental illness may impact them.
I love running into new people and hearing their stories. I have listened to a whole range of life stories and have heard every point of view imaginable. Some life stories are colourful and full of adventures; while other people discuss their intellectual pursuits; even more talk to me about politics and current happenings in our world.
I find that people’s passions roll off their tongues very freely and not long after the introductions are out of the way. That being said, I never hear anyone discuss their mental pain as readily as they do what they love. This is, of course, is understandable, it’s natural to be guarded about things so personal. Add Stigma on top and I’m willing to wager that they already feel judged or that they will be.
Even those who want to meet with me for the express reason of having someone they can confide in and unpack years of their mental pain have their shields up when we first meet. Knowing that their interior battle is the reason they can sit across from me, agree to a video chat or in other forms of communication, serve as a catalyst for them to open up faster. Whatever they find most comfortable.
When I first started trying to help others I honestly never dreamed I would encounter so many harbouring their deepest sorrows, dying to find some relief from it. Pain regardless of how it presents itself becomes more and more intolerable over time. If someone tells you that mental pain is not the same, you can take comfort in the fact that they are wrong.
Discovering that so many are suffering convinced me that we have an unseen epidemic, lying beyond the surface of so many. I was saddened by the sheer amount of those who sought me out but honoured that they would feel comfortable enough to bare their souls to me. I feel very privileged and am truly touched.
Although surprised at the number of people battling mental illness, I am even more surprised and concerned for men. Out of all those who have bravely told me their stories, and there have been a lot, not one was male…….. Not a single one.
So, where are all the men? If I were to hazard a guess, I would have to say that they are being incarcerated by a rather outdated ideology. An Ideology that says men don’t talk about there feelings regardless of the pain it produces. “Keep Busy” and “just don’t think about it”. Are common phrases heard frequently? We as men tend to feel that this is all one needs to “get Over” Anxiety or depression for example. This notion is, of course, is not accurate. We now know that one can’t simply shut it off, any more than one who has diabetes can deny it away. For more on the science of mental illness look here: The science of mental illness.
As a man, I was not immune to this traditional narrative; in fact, I was petrified to deal with my mental health condition. I witnessed the men all around me become the brunt of many jokes when an attempt to communicate their inner turmoil was made. Who wants to step up and be the one to talk after being the focus of someone’s sense of humour?
As far as I have been able to observe, the factors above lead to two things: One, a culture of fear: Being turned into the laughing stock of a group can make one feel six inches tall and not to mention felling a level ten on the embarrassment scale. Embarrassment is a feeling that would clam any up. Two, An unseen epidemic of males slowly dying inside, becoming victims of their unacknowledged, undiagnosed mental illnesses.
Guys, Pushing it down inside, being silent for fear what people may say or do isn’t working. I am where I am today because I “manned up!” My story is all over this website, have a look at where being a man got me. More importantly, it has put an untold amount of us in the ground….. it’s not working! I found my reasons to keep going, family love. What’re your reasons?
For help with mental illness go here: Men and Mental Health (CMHA),
Reach out: The Road To Mental Wellness Facebook page facebook.com/TRTMW or