Men’s Mental Health: Why We Need to Keep Talking

Anthony talking about meditation at home

In previous blogs, I’ve spoken about mental health as one of the three ‘legs’ you need to maintain a firm foundation in life; the others being physical and spiritual health. In my experience of being a meditator, and then of teaching meditation, women have always appeared to be better at managing both the mental and spiritual health ‘legs’.

However, things finally seem to be changing. Over the last year or so, it’s been wonderful to see the conversation about mental health for men unfolding and gaining momentum. There are now more opportunities than ever to seek support online, and engage offline through events such as Being A Man, and men’s groups run by inspirational and sympathetic facilitators like Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz.

The components for maintaining good mental health

Last year at a talk on ‘Masculinity and Mental Health’, Martin Seager, consultant clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network, shared the conclusions of a group of top UK based mental health professionals. They agreed that the following components are crucial to all of us for maintaining good mental health:

  • Be loved
  • Be heard
  • Belong
  • Achieve
  • Have purpose

‘Being heard’ is the component that many men find hardest to fulfil, because they tend to find it more difficult to share their feelings than women. It’s incredibly important for many to men to be heard in a place where they feel free from judgement about their masculinity, can unburden themselves freely, and can be met by others at a greater depth.

While many men are now starting to feel that it’s acceptable to share openly about their emotions – and there are growing opportunities for them to do so – feeling comfortable experimenting with who you are, and letting go of what you perceive you are ‘expected’ to be, takes time and work.

Opening up to friends

To give a personal example, about fifteen years ago my relationship with an old friend started to go awry. He was less available, would often cancel meeting up at the last moment, and when we did meet he appeared anxious and intense. I could sense something wasn’t right.

When he finally opened up, he confessed that he was suffering from acute anxiety, to the point of feeling totally incapacitated and unable to deal with even the simplest everyday tasks. Always slightly eccentric, his persona now appeared entirely different. His approach to life seemed to be extreme, and his ability to connect with others was becoming more and more difficult.

Whilst I could only imagine what he was feeling, I was deeply impacted. I didn’t judge him at all, I was only sad that I appeared to be losing an old friend, and I wanted to offer him as much help, love, and support as I could. Eventually, he accepted the medical help that was sought for him.  

Over the years since, we have talked candidly about what was going on for him, and he is now better able to cope due to therapy and medicine. Listening to him and talking with him was the one thing I was able to offer, and our friendship took on a different dynamic as a result of our conversations. It is just as strong, if not stronger now.

Showing vulnerability

Women are often more intuitive than men when it comes to mental health matters, and better at spotting when something isn’t right. It is often the person’s partner, lover, wife, mother, sister, or daughter who will recognise that something seems wrong, and suggest they seek help.

Those closest to us are crucial in helping identify mental health issues that we may not see for ourselves, but this only comes about with a willingness to speak honestly. We must be prepared to be vulnerable.

Often, it is an unwillingness to show vulnerability that is the biggest barrier to men talking about their mental health. Shame, fear, and self-loathing are all understandable feelings; especially in a culture that values typically “masculine” traits (such as the ‘stiff upper lip’) above typically “feminine” ones (like ‘being emotional’).

Talking to those closest to you is always the best first step, though it can feel like the hardest one. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, and that you can’t speak to friends or family, brilliant services such as The Samaritans and Clasp are there to support you.

MindMojo offers Vedic Meditation courses in both London and Brighton. View all of the upcoming dates of our FREE, no obligation introductory talks in both cities, and book your place online here.

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Anthony Thompson