June is Men’s Mental Health Month

Let’s talk about mental health.

Men’s mental health has been gaining support over the years but it’s not a loud enough cause yet. Truth be told, I didn’t even know that June was Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month until it was halfway through.

We all know that mental illness affects people from all walks of life. It affects people around us all the time. And you might even have a bad case of it yourself. 

But there is plenty of hope. Although stigmas still persist. 

Finding support for yourself or your mental health is not a sign of weakness. Your mind is yours for life and you would do well to take good care of it.

Society sometimes makes us feel like we should be living our best life at all times and that if anything negative gets in the way of that, we should be able to ‘positive-think’ it away. And if we can’t do that, there must be something wrong with us.

But it’s not always that simple. Things change everyday.. Ups and downs are part of life. Sh-t happens. And that doesn’t make us weak, nor is there anything wrong with us because of it. 

The closer we are to any person, event, outcome, etc., the more likely it/they will affect us. Also, the bigger of a deal an event is, the stronger its impact will be. This goes for both good and bad!

Our past traumas, failures, and anything else that pulls our emotional triggers can impact us this way (injustice, loss, or even politics). Ignoring these things, not learning how to set healthy boundaries, and even substance use can compound these problems that affect our wellbeing. 

But the same thing goes for our victories, encouragement from friends, and random serendipity. When things are going our way, we do pretty well. Right?

The problem is when we are down and we don’t know how to deal with it. We let things eat away at us until there is hardly anything left. We repeat unhelpful inner dialogue over and over. 

By the time we really notice our unhappiness we’ve already lost enjoyment in some of our favorite activities. Dark clouds have already crept into our relationships and our work, and rapidly leaks into our home life. We’ve started to feel unimportant, not good enough, or like a complete failure. We’ve become consumed by these thoughts.

And it’s hard to ask for help. 

You’ve already heard many statistics, but did you know that mostly due to the stigma around mental illness, and not wanting to be judged or treated differently; 

Three-quarters (75%) of employed Canadians say they would be reluctant, or would not admit they were suffering from a mental illness to a boss/co-worker.

Source: https://www.ipsos.com/en-ca/news-polls/Mental-Illness-Increasingly-Recognized-as-Disability

Crazy, huh?

I was there once a long time ago. And I talked myself into leaving a gig I really liked because of it. I had nothing to do with my boss, either. He was a good guy.

But in retrospect, I think that I should have opened up about it. That way, I likely could have stayed. But I didn’t realize until after that I had talked myself out of something good because of the way I was thinking. 

Circumstances inevitably change and whatever we go through will always eventually pass. Many of the things we go through do come back and we end up feeling – that way – again. It’s sometimes hard to deal with but it doesn’t mean we’re broken.

Emotions are there for a reason. Sadness shows that something was important. Fear is really based around safety. Anger is often a symptom of injustice. Learning to respect these emotions can lead to serious improvement next time the same things come up for us.

Try to be patient with yourself and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Focus on the next stair, not the whole staircase and remember; life is a journey, not a race.

How can we improve our mental health?

Make social connection a priority

One of the best ways to get up when you’re down is to make social connection – especially face-to-face – a priority.

Connecting with other people is such an important part of life! There are times when we need to withdraw from others. But sometimes digging deep and making that connection with somebody is just the thing we need. 

Do the bare necessities

Take care of your basic health and hygiene.

This means eating and sleeping properly but also getting a bit of fresh air and exercise. The bare necessities can be aided by indulging in a healthy habit (like reading or going for a walk). Both of these activities are good for your body and mind but the time they take to do also creates a bit of space between you and your thoughts.

Practice Gratitude

Another really good and quick mind boost is to list 5 or 10 things you’re grateful for! The best part is you can do this anytime; first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, or any other time throughout the day! You can even do this by yourself as a self pep-talk strategy before a meeting or a phone call.

Resources for mental health

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has a long list of resources pertaining to mental health and addiction

Movember is a good resource for mental health, suicide prevention, and other men’s health issues. This is also why more men each year grow silly (and awesome) mustaches during the month of November.

Jack.org is a charity dedicated to revolutionizing mental health in every province and territory.

Mental health and wellness services directly from Canada.ca