Heads above the waves

Did you know this week is ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’?

One in four of us in the UK will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in our lives. The figures show that a further one in five will suffer from mental health problems without being diagnosed. And that’s something we need to talk about.

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from mental health issues. But I know people who have. They only began to improve once they a) recognised that there was a problem, and b) began to talk about it.

Although mental health problems affect both genders, I want to talk a bit more about men and mental health. Why? Because the figures show men are less likely to be diagnosed with a mental health illness. Is that because we are men, and we are tough? I doubt it. I’d bet it’s because we are less likely to recognise there’s a problem, admit there’s a problem, and talk about the problem.

Recently, Everton footballer Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act over concerns for his welfare. The Daily Mail (unsurprisingly) brought attention to his £55,000-a-week wages in its headline for the story, implying how ridiculous it is for a man earning that much money to suffer mental health problems. The male version of Katie Hopkins, Piers Morgan, said he’s ‘not convinced by the new trend of male public soul-bearing’, suggesting the entire male gender needs to “man up”. But the Players’ Football Association now says 11 players have come forward and requested help for their mental health.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how the media and fans talking about a player’s mental health prompted others to take the first steps to improving their own mental health?

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men in the UK. Not cancer. Not anything else. More men die every year because they are in such a negative frame of mind that they decide not living would be better. “Man up” is dangerous phrase. It’s one we need to ditch in order to live mentally well and to lower suicide rates, particularly amongst men.

I bought a t-shirt from Castle Emporium in Cardiff last week. I was attracted to it because it looked nice, good quality, good price. I bought it because I found out about the brand. Head Above the Waves is a brand that raises awareness of depression and self-harm. I chatted to the guy behind the till, just for 10 minutes or so, and he told me about his battle with depression through school. Although I didn’t have any personal experiences to talk about, it definitely had a positive effect on me as I left the store.

Don’t “man up”. Talk about your mental health.


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