This week marks Men’s Health Week and the theme this year is Take Action On Covid19. For us, at Purple Lime through lockdown and beyond all our members of staff – male and female – have been taking action, just like everyone else.

For this special week, however, we’ve made the decision to focus on men’s mental health. Now more than ever it’s time to talk about this subject –something that makes many men uncomfortable; they can find it difficult talking about or admitting to having these issues. They often feel it may reflect on how they are perceived in business or in life.

They are more reluctant to seek medical help, or even talk to a loved one about any issues, compared with women.

Part of the problem appears to be linked to the huge societal expectations about how ‘real’ men should behave, and what masculinity looks like. Men are stereotypically supposed to be the head of the family; the breadwinners; the ones in control, who everyone else can turn to for support and guidance.

According to national statistics:

  • just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men – and suicide is the biggest cause of death of men under the age of 45, with latest figures showing a significant rise in older men
  • men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent
  • men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men
  • men are less likely to report or take time off work due to stress and anxiety than women

How has difficult mental health affected staff at Purple Lime?

Several team members have had issues around mental health in their lives and we positively encourage being honest and upfront about it. We want to do all we can to support team members who find themselves in mental difficulty. We understand the statistics you see above and we want to play our part in making it okay to discuss men’s mental health.

Therefore, we proudly salute Edd, one of our management accountants, for sharing with us his experience with mental health challenges and how he deals with his own well-being.

Have you had any mental health challenges? 

I suffered from fairly severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. The personal impact was considerable, but also, eventually, lots of positive came out of the situation. This was achieved through lots of counselling, much of which was provided by my very supportive employer at the time. The impact on my work life was less significant, and acted as more of a distraction which was arguably both beneficial and detrimental as I buried myself in work much of the time.

Was this triggered by anything in particular?

The changes in my mental health were triggered by two things.

The first, was a significant and unexpected change in life following my divorce a few years ago. I had the experience of having the carpet pulled out from under me unexpectedly and feeling like everything in the world that I thought I knew was backwards. A very unsettling place to be.

The second change, shortly following my divorce, was a very bad road accident. This put me in hospital for a few months and on discharge, I had to move in with my parents for support (a mental health challenge in its own right). During this time, I lived in a wheelchair and basically had to learn to walk again.  It was after this accident that I began to suffer from PTSD, which exhibited itself in severe travel anxiety for a good six months or so.

How has lockdown affected your mental health further?

Being quite an introvert and having had a lot of support with mental health issues in the past, I believe I am quite resilient to challenges like this now, so I haven’t been too badly affected (another positive outcome of difficult times).

I have found though, that my mind has been quite erratic, bouncing from one idea to the next and not being able to settle on anything in particular. I attended a lockdown funeral (ie online streamed) a few weeks ago which I thought would be fine, but it really knocked me for a few days.

Have you been affected by loneliness?   

Certainly; it is just me and my dog in lockdown so I haven’t seen many people. Thank goodness for Zoom!

What strategies have you used to combat and deal with this?   

I have kept myself occupied with lots of productive tasks around the house; made sure to talk to lots of people; avoid screen time as much as possible; keeping a diary and daily yoga/meditation certainly helped too. I also set myself daily targets of things I need to do – very simple targets to make sure my time has some structure. Being part of such a vibrant team at Purple Lime where we have been social and supportive online has also helped.

Have you spoken openly about this before?   

I’m very open about it, as I think we all should be. We all go through challenges in life, it’s a real shame that men are so terrible at talking about feelings in general.

What would you say to other men who might be struggling right now?   

That it’s perfectly normal to struggle with mental health. I believe 1 in 4 of us suffer with some kind of disorder each year. It isn’t a sign of weakness, but an opportunity for growth. We learn a lot from the challenges in life.

I have so much sympathy for disabled people after being wheelchair-bound; they are massively resilient to change.

All sorts of benefits come out of these challenges. It takes time to recognise them and the only way to get there is to talk things through with someone – whether that’s a counsellor (highly recommended!), friends, family, or even by writing thoughts down in a diary.

What can you do?

Following Edd’s example – offer to listen to people and let them talk to you. Start a conversation.  Ask about someone’s mental health and be genuinely interested to avoid platitudes.

Talking strengthens our ties with other people, and this helps to keep us well, and in good health.

To find out more about Men’s Health Week visit https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw

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