I love everything about basketball, so I was impressed to read NBL player Kevin Love's story of his recent admission of mental health issues including depression and panic attacks. He talks about the messages he was given as a boy to "Be strong, don't talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own". He was also of the view that mental health problems were happening to other people, certainly not powerful athletes (substitute businessmen, labourers, musicians, academics or anyone other category of work here), not recognising he was one of many men who were struggling. He also talked about needing counselling/therapy to help deal with unresolved grief, as so often under the feelings of depression, are things we have buried, pushed away, or hidden. Helping men come to terms with the realisation that talking about their thoughts and feelings is necessary for positive mental health, is a barrier we are still working to break down.
As I delved online into the stories of men in the public eye who had spoken about their depression, the more I became aware of men who had attempted to bring about change through sharing their personal messages. I am not sure this is enough though, for men to become more open just by hearing stories of others' mental health struggles. Men need people around them who will take the time to ask how they are doing and maybe even to pointedly ask whether talking to a professional would help. It is a difficult conversation for partners, friends or children to have with their fathers, brothers, workmates, partners and friends, as even the question itself can bring up shame, self-doubt and worry. If we don't though, we will never know how we may have been able to help the men we love.
My recommendation is to ask, rather than risk the men in your life feeling no-one noticed, or worse, no-one cared. For the men out there who think they might need help, try sharing that with someone - anyone you trust, or a service online. You have to start somewhere and imagine the relief of sharing the load and letting someone else in. We know that talking things through helps us find a better perspective to break the negative loop our minds can trap us in. I don't think it's too dramatic to say that one good conversation with someone (a professional or someone you can trust) might save your life.
Photo by Kamil Feczko on Unsplash