15-22 June marks Men’s Mental Health Week. Despite suicide being the biggest cause of death for men under 35 and 76% of death by suicides by men, men are still less likely access psychological therapies than women.
Lead by Charlie Hoare, a male mental health campaigner and certified coach (who will share his own mental health story) , our ‘Men’s Mental Health Matters‘ workshop aims to tackle the taboo of men suffering in silence and get more men talking about mental health. We sat down with Charlie to find out more about how he takes care of his mental health, and the advice he’d give to others.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your line of work.
I am an executive coach, positive psychology practitioner and author. Personal experience of depression and anxiety led me to write ‘MAN DOWN: A Man’s Guide to Mental Health’. Previously I co-founded a start-up – TÅPPED birch water – having worked for Innocent Drinks, Air Asia and start-ups in London, Hong Kong and Malaysia, from where I cycled the 10,000 miles home (for mental health charity SANE). I have a MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology.
What makes you so passionate about campaigning for men’s mental health?
Having suffered with crippling anxiety and bouts of depression myself, I know how tough it is to open up about how you’re feeling and get help. When I did finally accept that I needed some support and start speaking with my family and friends about what I was going through I found enormous relief in that. Simply explaining how I was feeling to those around me took a weight off my shoulders and was the start of my journey of learning to manage my emotional health.
In your experience, what are the main challenges men come up against when struggling to speak about mental health?
The main challenge that men come up against is themselves. We have been culturally-conditioned to believe that men should not express their emotions. Growing up with sayings like “boys don’t cry” and “man up” suggests that showing any kind of emotion is a sign of weakness. The traditional masculine stereotype is one of strength, and so any kind of weakness undermines that strength, therefore undermining your masculinity. This is really unhealthy and needs to change.
You shared that 38% of men have noticed a negative effect on their mental health since going into lockdown in March, and 20% feel vulnerable talking about their mental health (YouGov). What advice would you give to someone who’s really struggling as we slowly emerge out of lockdown?
Yes, these poll figures are alarming, although not surprising. I think that this lockdown period has been challenging for everyone’s mental health, but simply the nature of many men, being less open to asking for help, leaves them much more vulnerable. Men tend to isolate anyway when they’re struggling, so additional forced isolation is a recipe for disaster.
My advice is to try to be aware of your emotional state – take note of how you are feeling and reacting to what is going on around you. If you notice that you are not feeling emotionally well then do something about it. Whether that is going for a walk, getting into nature or video calling a friend. Remember that your experience of mental health is unique and consequently your method of managing it will also be unique. If your ‘self-care’ methods aren’t working then tell someone how you’re feeling – open up, be a bit vulnerable, and you will soon hear how others are going / have gone through similar experiences. If you are having a really difficult time and need immediate support then reach out to The Samaritans or call 999.
Do you have a go-to tool or technique to help boost your mood on days you’re feeling low?
Nature. Whether I’m indoors or outdoors I can benefit from a little bit of focused attention on nature. Whether that’s going for a walk in a green space or simply staring at a plant outside my window, I find that brings a moment of calm to the chaos in my mind.
But vulnerability is the most powerful tool there is – when I share parts of myself that could be judged negatively by other people I form genuine and deep connections, and this is the foundation of emotional wellbeing.
To find out more about our Men’s Mental Health workshop, or to book this workshop/webinar for your team, click here.