There’s a quote we all know too well from Forest Gump ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’. While we can have a laugh when we read it there’s a lot of truth in it, life sometimes throws all kinds of different things at us.

However unlike a box of chocolates not all of it is sweet. It sometimes throws things at us that we don’t like or we rather wish we didn’t have to deal with.  2020 was definitely a year none of us expected. It is a year where it has caused all of us to struggle.

Statistics show that men are far less likely to talk about their struggles than women. The suicide rate is higher for men than it is for women and this isn’t just a local statistic it’s a global statistic as well. Why is this the case? Why is it highest amongst younger men as well?  Well there has been many theories put forward and some highlight a few different things.

One key thing is perceptions, how men perceive themselves and how they evaluate their circumstances.  These perceptions can be impacted by certain cultural expectations, the expectation to be the breadwinner that provides for his family or someone who works hard to support his loved ones. However as the last couple of decades with its recessions, mass job losses and now the fallout of the coronavirus, the guarantee of a steady income isn’t as solid as it once was. However despite seeing their circumstances as the result of global events, men often put the blame on themselves building up feelings of guilt and shame that cripple their self-esteem. This as well as the stigma about men opening up about their struggles, impacts things even further.

These prospects also impact young men as well. They look at their current situation and often paint their future with their current situation. Many have had opportunities taken away by Covid, as well as their education being affected as well. Everything is changing so fast from the economy to plans that they had for the future. It’s no wonder that Covid19 has caused a rise in stress and anxiety for these groups.

However challenging the stigma around men’s mental health is so important. It’s ok to not be ok is a statement that we want to drive home as well as the fact that it is wisdom not weakness to ask for help. Rather than internalise feelings of guilt and hopelessness we would encourage all men to recognise these things as what they are, signs that they need to speak out and ask for help and support.

We never feel ashamed of asking for help if we have a physical health need and it should be exactly the same for our mental health.

First port of call should always be the local GP but if immediate help is needed you can always contact Samaritans on 116 123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

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Article by Aware NI