This week (12-18 June) is Men’s Health Week - an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges that men can face in relation to their health and wellbeing and the support that’s available. To mark the occasion, Lead Chaplain for the Devon Wellbeing Hub, Jez Brown, explores some of the reasons men may not seek support for their wellbeing and explains why it’s so important to reach out if you’re struggling.
Why do you think men can find it difficult to seek support with their mental health?
Our childhood years are when so much is learnt about how we respond to situations that we face in life. As a child of the 60’s, I can still remember being told that ‘big boys don’t cry’ (something that the band 10cc picked up on in one of their songs years later). This kind of statement has led to so many men learning to bury their true feelings and anxieties in a really unhelpful way, bottling everything up until one day the cork bursts and everything pours out. I also think that men believe that they should be self-reliant (again, learnt behaviour) and that to request any help from others is a sign of weakness. In reality, nothing is further from the truth. It takes real guts to speak out in a time of need.
Why is it important to speak up if you’re struggling? What can happen if you don’t?
By unhelpfully burying things, the issues can become more difficult and painful to extract and discuss as time goes by. They can become interwoven with other issues and life events that, in turn, can have a knock-on effect on mental wellbeing, relationships and work.
What would make it easier for men to seek help?
I think that we have to get the message out there to men that it’s good and healthy to talk. There are a number of project groups that are already leading the way with this. For example, Andy’s Man Club is a suicide prevention charity, offering free-to-attend peer-to-peer support groups across the UK and online. They state their mission as being ‘to end the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and help men through the power of conversation’.
Another example is Tom Chapman, a barber from Torquay, who lost a friend to suicide. He has now set up The Lions Barber Collective which aims to transform barbershops into safe, confidential, non-judgemental spaces for men to talk about their mental health.
It would be great if men were able to take the initiative in setting up informal talking shops in their local pubs, cafes and other places where men usually meet together.
I can think of a few occasions when I have encouraged men to talk by taking the initiative and declaring that I am a ‘work-in-progress’ - that I can be as vulnerable as the next man. By choosing to disclose something of myself, others then feel free to come back by sharing something from their own lives and before you know it – you’ve got a conversation in full flow!
How can pastoral care from the Devon Wellbeing Hub help?
Our team of Chaplains listen without judgement, with the aim of helping to lighten the load that you’re carrying. They can help with a range of life issues, including stress, loneliness and bereavement and support is available for people of all faiths and none. Below are some quotes from male colleagues that our team of chaplains have supported:
“Talking about the stuff in my life helps me see there’s hope even when my brain tells me there isn’t!”
“Some day’s life didn’t make any sense! But talking about my struggles, helped me make the nonsense inside my head make sense.”
Get in touch:
If you work in healthcare, social care or the police in Devon and are interested in our chaplaincy support, the Hub’s Colleague Wellbeing Practitioners can discuss your needs and make a referral on your behalf. Please get in touch by calling 0300 303 5455, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the simple referral form on the Devon Wellbeing Hub website.