"It’s okay not to be okay. We are human, not super human."
Since early 2014 I have had the privilege of providing a platform for those who wish to share their journeys. The stories shared have helped others feel less alone, and helped to educate those who wish to learn more about mental health, and there is a lot to learn.
Mental health is an umbrella term used to categories anything emotional and psychological. If you’ve ever experienced stress, anxiety, depression or even happiness and love, then you’ll know that the term mental health doesn’t just belong to a select few who have been diagnosed with a condition, it is something we all own.
We may choose not to express our emotions or reveal any difficulties, but this doesn’t mean that those of us who choose this path are exempt from experiencing problems with our mental health. In fact, from all the stories I have heard since setting up My Mental Health, it would seem that by not sharing, we are at a greater risk.
Whilst I do care deeply about everyone’s mental wellbeing, there are a few areas that I want our work to focus on over the coming years. Those areas are, educating children and their parents and, working more closely with the male population.
I’ve said many times before that I wish I’d had access to the knowledge I have now, when I was younger. For me, it would have spared years of suffering and missed opportunities. For others, it could have spared lives – and that’s the harsh reality.
Because it is difficult to measure how we’ve helped those who are supported before they may suffer serious Ill health, there is a lack of funding for preventive measures. I see it in businesses and various sectors all the time, wait until there is a problem, and then we fix it. However, this isn’t the right approach, we need to be proactive and focus our energies and resources on preventing problems. Of course, this doesn’t mean problems will never arise, but it does mean we are better equipped when they do.
I’ve witness something very special since being part of My Mental Health, I have seen our following go from predominately female based, to now seeing an ever growing subscription of males. This is very important to me, and you can see why when you grasp the following statistics:
In 2013, 6,233 suicides were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older. Of these, 78% were male and 22% were female.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men ages 20-49 in England and Wales.
When we really think about what those statistics are saying, you can see why it is so important that we loose the belief that men always have to be tough. Like I said before, not showing distress doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Experiencing problems with your mental wellbeing doesn’t make you any less of a man; it just means your human.
On 28th January 2016 I was presented with the British Citizen Award, which recognised my voluntary work and the founding of My Mental Health. I am one of those men who have experienced problems with mental health, and it hasn’t damaged me by being honest about it. I’m involved in voluntary work that I adore, have a successful career, incredible friends and family, and now a shiny medal. Yay.
My point is, being open about how I feel hasn’t weakened me or taken anything away, it has done quite the opposite, it’s saved me. I now know, it’s okay not to be okay.