There is a something affecting men. It makes the toughest men weak. It’s like kryptonite to Superman. You can’t identify it like a broken bone. It is probably the greatest health issue facing men. This weakness is to do with the inability many men have when it comes to talking about mental health, depression and emotional problems.
Depression affects one in eight men and one in six women. However, while six people die by suicide every day one in five of these are men. In other words, while men are less likely to experience depression they are five times more likely to commit suicide. Although depression isn’t always the cause for suicide the two are pretty closely linked. But people don’t choose to be depressed. It’s not just a case of perking up and looking on the bright side. Depression is a disease caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. People can’t wish it to go away any more than they can wish not to develop any serious illness.
So what can you do?
1. Ask R U OK?
Be aware of changes in the personality of mates and simply ask how they are doing. R U OK Day? is a great reminder to do this. We need to have open communication. Be there for your mates and show them they’re not alone. Make them feel safe to open up to you without fear of judgement. Provide them with the opportunity to speak up and let them know it is ok to talk.
2. Remember it’s not weak to speak
The hardest part is starting the conversation. If you think you might be suffering from depression and don’t feel comfortable talking with a friend or relative, seek professional help from a psychologist or GP. A neutral third party is a great place to start. Just expressing how you feel is a great first step.
3. Embrace exercise
The link between the body and brain are undeniable. If you take care of your body, your brain will follow. Exercise is medicine. Post-mortem studies on individuals who commit suicide have significantly decreased levels of BDNF. BDNF is a hormone that gets released during exercise and is responsible for building new brain cells. So try and move every day. Even though some days it’s hard enough to get out of bed the more you move the better you feel. You can decrease your symptoms with exercise alone and research tends to suggest the higher the intensity the better.
Mental health is perhaps one of the biggest issues facing blokes today and we need to change to start talking openly about how we are really feeling and taking care of our mental health. As much as we think we are invincible and can handle it, reality is we aren’t. And that is ok.