welcome to b1oke

What you have done is often the hardest part, admitting that everything is not ok and its time to get some help. Well done. 

Please remember you are not alone and many men (and many around you) struggle with their mental health.  This is why we started this - we have all struggled at some point and many of us still do have challenges that we are living with. 

Below are some tips that can help you on your mental health journey. 

1. Explore, understand and choose to reject traditional gender roles and male societal expectations

For most of us, societal expectations and gender roles are pinned on us the moment our existence is discovered. Even before we are born, traditional gender roles interfere with our lives, from pretty pink dresses being bought on mass for women expecting girls to trucks and dinosaurs being painted in nurseries awaiting little boys. Now, these examples may seem harmless, and they are for the most part, but they all add up to shape the lives of many – and not always in a positive way.

A lot of men are expected to behave in a certain way and show masculine traits, like:

  • Needing to be seen as strong

  • Showing stoicism and a lack of emotion - ‘boys don’t cry’

  • Being dominant

  • Achieving control

  • Being the ‘breadwinner’ of their household

And even if your parents don’t or didn’t directly push these views on you, you are likely to unconsciously internalise at least some these norms and expectations from life around you, e.g. in the media, films, school, friends and family.

Why are these roles and expectations sometimes harmful?

While wanting to feel in control and strong is not inherently bad or negative, some research suggests that relying on all of these traditional ideas of what it is to be ‘a man’ may have a negative effect on male mental health.6 Conforming to these societal pressures like having to be self-reliant and have power over others is linked to poor male mental health, as well as increased distress.7 Research on the male need to be stoic and show little emotion has revealed that men who feel that they can’t speak openly about their emotions are less able to recognise mental health issues in themselves and are much less likely to try and find support.8 In fact, only 24% of men who have felt highly stressed discuss it with their friends or family – leaving a whopping 76% to internalise any problems and pretend everything is fine. This can often make things worse.9

Knowing this, it is important to put less pressure on yourself to conform to what society deems ‘manly’ and be conscious of times when you’re acting up to the stereotype to see if you can change it. Also – stop holding other men to this notion as this only perpetuates the stereotype.

2. Get talking

Whether it’s your parents, partner, friend or councillor, it’s important that you try to find at least one person you can open up to if you’re struggling with a mental health issue, other health issue or any other problem laying heavy on your mind. If you don’t have somebody you feel you can open up to or want to speak to somebody anonymously, Samaritans are a free phone call away 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

3. Be there for the other b1okes in your life

If you see a friend, colleague or somebody else you know struggling try to offer them support and a kind ear to talk to - however awkward or alien it may feel to you. Every time you do this, the dangerous expectation for men to ‘man up and shut up’ about their problems seems more and more out-dated and unhelpful.

4. Focus on being yourself, not just ‘a man’

When going about your daily life, try and be conscious to your actions and see if you are doing certain things just to appear manly, e.g. trying to one-up your mates’ stories at the pub, starting fights for no reason, driving fast, drinking excessively, catcalling women and avoiding anything girly just out of principle.

Most people will agree that it takes a strong character to ditch social norms and expectations to be truer to themselves – so give it a go!

5. Learn how to ask for help

Not knowing how to ask for help is a major problem for a lot of men in all areas of their health.10 For example, in England men made up only 36% of referrals to Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) – a talking therapy service to help adults with anxiety and depression.11

From choosing not to go to the GP for an illness to refusing to acknowledge or work on mental health problems, this issue of avoidance is not going to help anybody – especially not men. So, the next time you feel physically or mentally ill, please do not hesitate to give your GP a call and get the help you need, because things could get a lot worse if you just pretend it isn’t happening.

6. Avoid using alcohol and drugs to cope

A lot of people drink alcohol or use recreational drugs as a way to relax or have fun, but some people can abuse substances and end up using them as a coping method for stress or other distress in their life.

Men are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as coping methods when they are not feeling well, instead of getting the help that they need. You may not even realise you are doing it, as some things are very much ingrained into our culture, e.g. binge drinking on the weekend.

Try to be more critical of your drink and drug use and try to find out if you’re indulging to simply have a good time or if you’re doing it to bury health problems that would be much better helped if you acknowledged them and got advice from your friends, family or GP.

7. Find an activity you enjoy

Modern day life can be hectic and busy, which can cause some of us to feel tired and stressed. So, it’s important to find an activity to help us decompress and relax in our own time. Whether it’s trying out new cooking cuisines, learning a new skill like rock climbing, kicking a ball around in the park with friends or getting stuck into a good book or magazine, it’s highly recommended for you to find your very own fun and stress relieving activity to help you feel your best.

8. Get moving

Exercise shouldn’t be something we ‘ought to’ or ‘should’ do, so it’s important that you find one you enjoy – don’t slog it at the gym when you’d much rather be playing tennis or swimming lengths.

As little as 10 minutes of brisk walking can increase our energy, mental alertness and help us stay in a positive mood.12 Whichever activity you choose, getting physical has bags of potential to improve our general well-being. Research shows that when people participate in regular physical activity, they can expect increased self-esteem,13 less stress and reduced anxiety.14 Regular exercisers could also be less likely to develop mental health problems15 and if they already have a mental health problem when starting, their quality of life could improve.16

9. Anger management

Feeling angry is pretty natural and quite a healthy emotion to feel – when you’re in control of it.  It’s normal to feel angry if we are frustrated or treated badly and it can help motivate us and help us identify personal problems.

Anger can also help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations as anger usually comes with a quick ‘burst of energy’, which is part of our natural fight or flight system.

However, what’s not healthy is when your anger causes you to behave in a destructive way, has a negative impact on your mental and physical healthy, or becomes your ‘default’ emotion when you want to block your other emotions out.17

If you feel like you have an anger problem, the following treatments are available:

  • Talking therapy and counselling

  • Anger management programmes

  • Help for violent and abusive behaviour

Your best bet is to speak to your GP about these treatments so they can help you decide which one would be best for you.

10. Get better sleep

Mental health and sleep are quite co-dependent. Regularly enjoying a good night’s sleep can help you to feel less tired throughout the day, more able to cope with the tasks of daily life, confident with good self-esteem and less likely to be worried and stressed.18

Try to get a regular 7-9 hours sleep a night by limiting your late-night device usage, doing some exercise in the day, eating a healthy diet and making your bedroom a haven for sleep.

11. Eat well

Your brain is always working hard to allow you to think, move, breath – survive, even when you’re asleep. So, it only makes sense that what you fuel your brain with, e.g. what you eat and drink, will affect its function and consequently your mood and mental health.

Healthy foods like fresh fruit and veg contain vitamins and minerals to nourish your brain, whereas a diet high in convenience and refined foods like sugary snacks and processed meat can be harmful to the brain. In fact, multiple studies have linked a diet high in refined sugars with impaired brain function and depression.19 Try to eat a varied diet packed full of plants and all the nutrients you need to thrive. What you put in your body has such a profound effect on your overall health that it’s a no-brainer really!20

The final word

We hope these tips can help you get on track to better male mental health, but as always, please consult your GP if you are struggling with your mental health – or your general health for that matter. There’s no shame in asking for help.

Sources

  1. http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf

  2. https://ukmensday.org.uk/

  3. As source 2

  4. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/male-suicide-rate-england-wales-covid-19

  5. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/survey-people-lived-experience-mental-health-problems-reveals-men-less-likely-seek-medical

  6. https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/cou-cou0000176.pdf

  7. As source 6

  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735816300046

  9. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/putting-focus-mens-mental-health-november

  10. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/survey-people-lived-experience-mental-health-problems-reveals-men-less-likely-seek-medical

  11. https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health

  12. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise#_ednref10

  13. As source 11

  14. As source 11

  15. As source 11

  16. As source 11

  17. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anger/about-anger/

  18. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/sleep-problems/about-sleep-and-mental-health/

  19. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

  20. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

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