The information below is not intended as medical advice and is only intended to offer points you may wish to consider, together with signposting for more support. Opinions are solely the views of the author and those involved in writing the article, not My Family Care or Bright Horizons. You should consult an appropriate medical professional if you would like to find out more about Mental Health and treatments.
According to the NHS, men continue to find it difficult to seek help when it comes to mental health - suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50. The latest UK suicide figures show that on average around 6,000 people take their own lives every year. Three-quarters of them are men.
Our guest blogger, Kieran, shares his mental health story and paints the picture of how the best way to 'man up' is to speak up and seek help…
Tell Us a Bit About How Your Mental Health Challenges Began?
As a teen I had severe acne, which dented my confidence and made me very self-conscious. After trialling every pill, paste and cream available to fix my complexion, I was finally referred to a dermatologist who prescribed me with a powerful antibiotic, proven to beat acne and deliver life-changing results. Little did I know that it would change my life in more ways than one.
Following six months of treatment, my acne disappeared, but what remained was far darker and invisible to others. An innocent joke or facial expression from another would kickstart racing thoughts and anxiety. Intellectually I knew I was being paranoid, but no matter how much I applied logic, the feeling that others were out to ‘get' me was overpowering. I began to doubt myself and everyone around me. This deep sense of insecurity meant I worked even harder to hide what was going on from others, and to my detriment, I played the great pretender all too well.
My anxiety continued to build. I felt like my head was going to explode, and this finally led to a powerful panic attack. Something had to change.
What Made You Seek Help?
In the end I was faced with two choices. Continue to deteriorate, which could have led to suicide, or to get some help. So, I spoke to someone in the family that I trusted, which in my case was my Dad, and booked in to see my GP.
What Help Did You Receive?
My GP prescribed me some anti-depressants and referred me to the local wellbeing service which offers counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). She also sent me for a full blood check-up and explained how the antibiotic I was prescribed for my acne had been linked to several suicide cases, although the medical community continues to debate the dangers of the drug.
How Would You Describe the State of Your Mental Health Now?
I'm really good and have been for many years now. Following my blood test, it was identified that my Thyroid wasn't functioning properly, and this can have a serious impact on mood. This has now been treated with replacement hormones and has dramatically improved my mental health. Having come through this difficult experience, I'm now very passionate about ensuring no one else suffers in silence. I'm also a massive advocate for men regularly attending health check-ups.
What Advice Would You Give to Others?
I've learnt that advice is out there and it's important to acknowledge the issue, then you can start to take advantage of the support available. We all have mental health, meaning this can affect any of us at any time, so there's nothing ‘wrong' with you. If you broke your leg you'd go to hospital and get help, right? You'd also talk about your injury with your friends and family openly, so why should it be any different when it comes to your mental health? It takes a brave and courageous man to admit when there's a problem. The old notion that ‘real' men don't cry (along with all the other oppressive male stereotypes) should no longer apply to our lives because it's not true and it doesn't contribute to a healthy society. My experience has taught me that ‘manning-up' actually means to take whatever path is necessary to become a better, healthier person – this means dealing with your demons, and staying the course so that you can help others.
Truth is, I'm very lucky in a way, because the deterioration of my mental health had a clear cause (the meds and my underactive thyroid), which made it far easier to treat. For many this is not the case, and their depression is a chronic condition which they will always carry with them. There's still a lot of help available for these people, but it's more complex and not as easy to pinpoint and treat.
Addressing the state of my mental health has made me a better man, friend, father, brother and son, and I won't stop talking about it, because if it nudges even one other person to take action in their own life, then it's been worth it.
Every person who reads this article will bring their own experiences with them. If, as a result of reading this article you feel as though you could use some support, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional, a friend, a family member or a trusted colleague. Here are a few useful resources that you can use: