For me, it was receiving a text from a client early one morning letting me know that a colleague of his, another man, had committed suicide. We had spoken about his colleague in an earlier session and my client had expressed his sadness, fear and concern about the man and had asked if I would reach out. Which I did; several times, and hadn’t received a response. And, now, less than four days later, the man had taken his own life.
When it comes to our health and more specifically our mental health, we men struggle to help ourselves. Our psychological and emotional landscapes are rarely places we set foot on, let alone question. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, is the phrase about our mental health I’ve heard most often in the mens’ groups I have facilitated over the last thirteen years. This approach of ‘fixing’ ourselves only when we notice a problem is a type of reactive thinking and truth be told, by the time we realize there is a problem and we actually admit it to ourselves and others – it’s likely too late for a band-aid or quick fix – which is what many men seek. Rapid relief is also something men tend to seek when it comes to mental or emotional pain – “Fix me up and let me get back at it,” is a phrase I hear men say since, as men, we under appreciate the complexity and impact of our mental and emotional health.
So, it should come as no surprise to you or any man for that matter that when we’re ready to take the step of seeking help and support for our mental health that finding the right person to work with is equally if not more difficult.
Who do you ask, who can you talk to in order to find the right person? Do you talk to a friend? Ask your GP? Open up to your partner or spouse? Book some time with your manager or boss? Look online? This is how many men around the globe begin the search for help and along the way they find it a frustrating, or even an embarrassing process. And despite an increase in awareness of mens’ mental health issues – thanks to articles and stories in the popular media – the stigma of seeking help, then participating in a process of support is still a powerful barrier for most guys.
And on top of this we’re dealing with a crisis of over medication – anti-depressants, anti-anxietals, as medical professionals are over prescribing rather than making it easier to refer patients to counselling for treatment. Medications as an assist or support can be invaluable – but on their own, they are not the solution.
You see I know all of this because I have lived these experiences not only as a therapist but also, years ago, as a man desperately looking for help. My life turned around and I began to climb up and out of the dark hole I was in when a friend, who could see that I was suffering, offered me a way out. “I know a guy, who can help you,” he said. “He helped me and I have hope back in my life now – I’ll connect the two of you. Just make sure you call him.”
And I made that call.
It was that simple. I hadn’t asked for help directly and it was my friend who took the risk of extending a helping hand – all I had to do was accept his offer.
This is the idea, or better yet, the aim behind The Mens’ List. This site is a helping hand and a community for men who are looking for a way out of the pain of their mental or emotional health. We’re going to take the risk of going first with articles and discussion about the mental health issues of greatest concern to men of all ages. We’re going to talk about these issues in a way that normalizes them – because they are normal – for all of us.
The Mens’ List is also a directory of professionals who have an expertise or interest, or practise focus in supporting and helping men. We want to make it easier for you to get the help you need, when you need it, and also steer other men who need a hand out of a dark or stuck place to find their way back to living a healthier life.
The Mens’ List is the second step. Step one is saying “I need help.”