First the good news.
I am finding more men coming for therapy. They seem to have taken on board, seemingly through recent media campaigns, how important it is that men look after their mental health. They usually know someone of their age (under 40 and usually male) who has committed suicide. When I ask them to describe this person who took their own life, invariably the response is – ‘he seemed so happy, he seemed to have it all’. Sad as it is, the suicide of someone they know, who, to the outside world had the ‘perfect life’ seems to have triggered something which has prompted them to seek help.
When men seek therapy, they seem lost, confused and unable to make sense of why they are depressed, anxious or have suicidal thoughts.
Our thoughts and feelings are not visible. Today we live in a society which has an increased focus on the visual. How we look and what we own seems to matter more than our emotional wellbeing. Many men are spending increasing amounts of time and money on looking good - yet still don’t feel good enough. And because it is usually the case that men don’t talk about their feelings, their mental health issues are often not shared but are carried internally – and are often denied.
Many of my male clients seem to have it all. They cannot understand why with their self-confessed fabulous lifestyles and being the envy of their friends, they continue to feel empty and discontented. They feel guilty for having such feelings. Yet they are not immune to them. It’s important men acknowledge their feelings, because by doing so they can start to change some of the habitual and unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaving of which they have been unaware.
For many men, it is hard to acknowledge feelings. Men who feel angry are often subject to mood swings and these impact on those close to them. Inside though, they are usually breaking up. These men may be having suicidal thoughts. Such thoughts are real and are often intrusive. And need to be taken seriously.
For some people, such thoughts never really go away. But they can be managed. They can be worked through.
It is very important to recognise that experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts has little to with having a lifestyle which is the envy of others.
It also important to talk openly about depressive/suicidal thoughts – and men need help to do so. We are taught to detect the signs of a heart attack or stroke and seek ways to avoid having one – so why not look out for signs of our depressive or suicidal thoughts?
I have found it is useful to have a plan when depressive or suicidal thoughts make their entrance. Strategies can be helpful for dealing with these difficult thoughts and feelings.
- Making sure any means to commit suicide have been removed eg tablets, knives
- Remain in close contact with one or two people
- Sharing thoughts/feelings with those people
- Talk to the Samaritans
- Make a list of the things which have so far prevented you from committing suicide
- Talk to someone as soon as possible
- Seek professional help