In the UK, 75% of suicide victims are male. I don’t mean to start this piece on a dark note, but it is an essential figure to highlight because men do not talk about their mental health enough. It’s not easy to get started either, especially as society has always taught us to keep our emotions inside and that we always have to be strong. Well, here’s a quick newsflash for you – it’s ok to feel depressed, anxious, and afraid. Your mental health is just as valid as anyone else’s, and it doesn’t matter that you’re a guy. Men and mental health are slowly starting to be seen as something other than a taboo subject, and I’m here to keep that ball rolling.
The Impact of Mental Health on Men
Suffering from conditions like depression and anxiety can be really difficult, especially as there are some mental illnesses that are more associated with women (such as BPD) than men. This is because they are more focused on emotional instability, and so it can make it even harder to try and talk about a condition that society (and maybe even you) deem as unmanly.
It all links in with men being told to “man up” and “be a man”, and people don’t necessarily realise how damaging these phrases can be. Society depicts the strong and silent man that shows no weakness as attractive and desirable, but in actual fact it is unhealthy, and most people are more interested in a guy that is able to talk about his feelings, or at least willing to.
Mental health has a negative impact on everyone, but especially men because of what society expects from us. There are always going to be people who mock men for self-expression, but by coming forward and talking about mental health, these people will become few and far between. There was a time that I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and urges, and it wasn’t until I took a step forward and started talking about it that I started to learn how to cope – a topic that I am going to explore further in the next section.
Learning to Cope with Mental Health
So, what are some of the ways you can try to cope with your mental health aside from therapy and medication from your doctor? There are a few things you can try to see what works best for you and your mind, one of which is finding people that you trust to start trying to talk about what you are going through. You might be surprised to discover how supportive others can be, and it doesn’t have to be face to face either – you can use online chatrooms or even games to start the discussion.
Try to find things that you enjoy, and that takes your mind off things for a little while. It is easier said than done, I know, but I always found that reading or playing video games really helped my mind to chill out and learn to relax a little more. Mindless TV can be great for settling feelings of anxiety and depression as well. Try not to turn to food for comfort though, I made that mistake, and it took over a year to reverse most of the effects.
Try mindfulness out as well. I know it is marketed towards women most of the time, but the results are absolutely fantastic. Just trying a few of the exercises each day can work wonders on your mindset and the way you see the world, so you really should pick up a mindfulness book and give it a read. There are online exercises as well, but the physical copies have so much more inside them.
There are loads of blogs and YouTube channels out there where people talk about their mental health, the issues they are having, and how they were able to overcome them or learn how to manage them more effectively. I strongly recommend that you seek some out and see which ones you like, and which ones might be able to give you some much-needed comfort, support, and advice when dealing with your mental health.
How Music Can Help You
Music is a big thing that can help ease your mind and soothe your mental health when you are struggling. This is because it lowers the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) that is produced by your body, as well as reducing blood pressure and heart rate. All of this together leaves to a more relaxed state, and it can assist with relieving the symptoms of anxiety. All you need to do is sit back and switch on some tunes with a slow and steady beat.
It also increases our dopamine levels (responsible for making us feel good) and helping your mind with an extra dose of serotonin to try and balance out feelings of depression. It’s not a cure, but over time it can certainly help. Just remember that you should never listen to sad music when feeling depressed as it can actually make it a lot worse. Instead, play something that is happier and more upbeat.
Looking at Music Therapy
If general therapy isn’t exactly your thing, you can also try music therapy out. There is the option to attend group sessions or private ones – it all depends on your personal preference. There are also two forms of music therapy as well, each of which I will go through for you now.
First, there is the chance to create your own music, and this usually happens in a group setting. You can use it to express how you are feeling, as well as collaborate with others to make new pieces that really tell everyone what you are experiencing. It’s a way to meet like-minded people, but also to learn new coping mechanisms and get things out that you have not been able to express with words.
Secondly, you could also listen to calming music while performing creative tasks like art or writing. This tends to happen in a private setting, but both forms of therapy can be done alone or in a group. There is no pressure to talk about how you are feeling, although the option is there, and the therapist will simply play music and watch you create before talking through it with you at the end.
You don’t need to have any musical experience for music therapy, and you can get into sessions by receiving a referral from your doctor, or even by calling up yourself and going on a waiting list.
I hope that this has been able to show you more about the ways in which men can struggle with their mental health, but also that you are not alone. It can feel terrifying and isolating, but there is no shame in talking about what you are going through or seeking help – even though it might take a while to gather the confidence to do so. There are so many ways in which you can learn to cope better, both with professional help and your own. Music can be an amazing way to ease the symptoms!