Supporting men and their mental health

We get so many mixed messages when it comes to supporting men. You can be loud but not too loud. You can be emotional but do not get into a rage about it. When you get messages like this, men get confused and frustrated. They lose confidence in themselves and their interaction with people. When faced with such uncertainties, they get anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression when left unaddressed can lead to further breakdown of communication, impacting your life and loved ones.

Men approach conflicts and relationship issues differently to women. They see a problem and they will seek to fix it, to gain control of the situation before it gets out of hand. When things are outside of their control, they may feel frustrated and angry. In a glance, they will seem more closed off or dismissive when asked if there is anything wrong. They would attempt to reduce all unnecessary human contact or outing. They will feel too anxious to be around people that would question them if they look the slightest unhappy or depressed.

Men would often try to suppress their feelings and thoughts as much as possible, as the issues gets too complicated. Suppression of the emotions often leads to physical aches and pains,  which can results in irritability and negative temperament.

As depression sets in, they began to cycle through feelings of anger, hurt and despair. They can also become extremely lonely, thinking that no one loves nor care for them as emotional isolation sinks in. In an attempt to feel alive and regain some identity back, they may engage in physical activities that offers them instant rewards such as working more hours as a distraction, take up a new hobby or strike up a connection with another person or group to feel more wholesome.

How do we support them?

Like women, men needs a safe place for them to be able to open up. It is harder for men to be accepted for being feeling vulnerable. Men has been taught to manage their life and be in control to achieve desirable lifestyles. They are also focused on finding quick solutions to keep their loved ones happy.

One of the biggest barrier is expecting them to ‘man up and get over it’. Compassion and empathy goes a long way. That said, not everyone is equipped with compassion and empathy as part of their parting gift from being in a relationship. Relationship issues usually arise when couples are not able to communicate effectively. When things spiral out of control and despair sets in, their only focus is on how much they have failed themselves in managing their lives. Being emotionally invested in the conflict can be a significant barrier to develop and maintain compassion and empathy. 

Counselling is a good way for them to open up about their issues or concerns. It gives them a supportive environment for them to open up about how they feel. 

If you are supporting a man through his life issues, just remember that you too may need some counselling to help yourself recharge. You need to be acknowledged that you are also hurt from the conflicts, from being frequently dismissed, ignored which can impact on intimacy and closeness to him. 

How does counselling help?

Counselling therapy is one way for us to analyze our mental well being. Cognitive behaviour therapy, Solution focus and Motivational therapy are some of the commonly used therapy to start addressing present concerns.

Counselling can be done via virtual online session, face to face or via the phone. A counsellor provides the neutral setting for the client to tell their story. How the journey unravels depends on the collaboration between the counselor and the client. Ultimately, the client needs to feel trusted and supported for the therapy to be effective.

How long will it take?

It gets worst before it gets better. The biggest obstacle is to overcome the story you have been telling yourselves. Collaboration is key in forming the courage and confidence to embark on the journey to look into ourselves. Within the journey, you may uncover some of the past events that shapes who you are today. Relationship issues may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Men that had experienced trauma at some stage in their life may feel more closed off and often less willing to partake in counselling. They will avoid situations or places that will triggers emotions from their trauma. They will likely experience physical discomfort as they become distressed. These are the common signs of someone that experiences PTSD- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, left untreated, it can get in the way of daily living for themselves and loved ones.

Treatments may involve:

  • Teaching them specific skills to address the symptoms. Having new tools will help with coping mechanism when certain event triggers negative emotions.
  • Changing mindset and promote positive self talks.
  • Addressing other issues such as depression, anxiety and misuse of alcohol and drugs.

If you or your loved one are experiencing PTSD symptoms, consider 

What does recovery look like?

All good things takes time. Healing will happen when there is acceptance. Therapy gives you a chance to rewrite a new story. In a relationship, you have the opportunity to get to know and learn from one another. Learning new tools can improve communication from being abrupt and defensive to one that is inviting and warm. It will involve some trial and error before you get it right. Utilise therapy sessions as your sounding board to analyze your communication with each other.

If you are caring for a friend or a relative through anxiety and depression, the best thing you can do is to stay in touch with them. Loneliness and emotional isolation can be difficult to overcome. Be the person that they can confide in without expectation. Give them space to express, explore and analyze their thoughts that has been crowding their mind.

If they looked to be in distress, consider seeking help from professional such as the Mental Health Crisis Team – 0800 611 116.