Mental health is not just a hot topic it’s a massive issue that isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, the mental health crisis seems to be getting worse not better. It’s a huge issue to tackle as an individual, a community and a country. So, what can we do about it? How can we help others? What can we do live our best life? The aim of this article is to simplify a very complex issue as well spark thoughts and conversation about this topic.
Let’s kick things off with having a look at the statistics.
The statistics are overwhelming, here’s the most damning Australian stats:
- 1 in 2 of us will have some sort of mental health condition or disorder in our lifetime
- 9 people suicide every day, 7 of the 9 are men
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15–44-year-olds
What is the core problem?
Before we can solve an issue, we must understand the cause. If we don’t find the core of the problem, can we ever solve the issue? There’s a variety of causes that are well researched but do they go deep enough? Do they get to the core of the problem?
Bronnie Ware’s book ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ gives us great insight on where to start looking. Bronnie Ware, an Aussie palliative care nurse, noticed a pattern of common regrets that people had towards the end of their lives. The top five regrets were:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
How can we help others?
Be a great mate
When people are struggling or stressed it can be difficult for them to put their hand up and ask for help. Being in a stressed state puts the body into survival mode and the brains focus is on just that, survival. Therefore, it’s extremely challenging to see solutions to problems, think outside of themselves or even to think clearly. All the more reason we need to be a great mate and check in with the people in our lives.
This is particularly important when it comes to male suicide. More often than not male suicide is due to situational distresses, or commonly called life crisis’s- NOT a diagnosed mental health condition or disorder. Things like relationship issues, money issues or loss of job.
Common myths about asking people if they are ok:
You don’t have or need to be a professional- people want to feel heard.
I might say the wrong thing- just listen.
You don’t need to fix them- ask them what they need next.
When people close to you are struggling just check in with them. Commonly, people offering or wanting to offer support pull back because they are worried, they may say the wrong thing, aren’t sure how to ask or are unsure what to do next if there is a problem.
We forget to be a human.
The person who needs help doesn’t give a crap about all of that, they want and need someone who actually listens to them. The worse thing that can happen is that they are ok and don’t need support and at least they know you care.
Once the person opens up you don’t actually have to say much. Be fully present with the person you’re supporting: ask questions, empathise, listen, be a great mate. Let them get it all out.
If there is a problem you can call a helpline on their behalf, inform the person on the other end what is happening and put the person you’re supporting on the phone.
How to be a great mate:
Touch base with your mates: do it your way whether that’s popping in for a cuppa, a beer in the shed, a phone call or a text message
- Check in with your mates: Ask how they are going…twice. People are conditioned to say ‘Good, thanks’ when you ask how they are. Asking them again interrupts their normal responses and prompts them to think about the answer
- Shut up and listen: once you’ve got someone talking, let them talk, lean in, nod your head, acknowledge how they are/ might be feeling (don’t judge, don’t try and fix)
- Ask: ask them what they need for their next step
- Support: give them a hand in taking their next step, touch base with them to see how they are going
This is covered more in our ‘Be A Great Mate’ men’s health awareness talk: https://www.grablifebytheballs.com.au/talks
There are many great organisations out there that offer entry level suicide prevention training, mostly for free. Google ‘QPR training’ or ‘safeTALK training’ and your location.
How can we live our best lives (and not become a statistic?)
There’s a multitude of information on the things to do to live a great life, so much so that it can become overwhelming as to what to do for you.
Human beings are wired for social connection. It should come as no surprise that strong social connections are linked to happier and healthier lives. We all tend to live busy lives but prioritising our relationships and friendships is one of the best things we can do for our health, well-being and longevity. It doesn’t matter how it looks, whether it’s having a coffee with a friend, going for a walk with a mate, it doesn’t really matter- what matters is the connection.
Our bodies are designed to move. Whether your thing is walking, or yoga, or running a marathon, it doesn’t matter just move your body.
If we put petrol in a diesel car, what happens to the car? You wreck the car. If you put bad food in your body, you’ll eventually wreck your body, those foods will also alter your mood. Things to avoid or avoid in excessive amounts: processed foods, white starchy foods, added sugar and alcohol. If you’re looking for a mood booster, try some proper dark chocolate or a handful of berries.
Mental health is massive issue and something we are going to hear even more about in the coming years. Remember: Be a great mate, connect with people and let’s prioritise real life human connection.
By Sam Parker
Passionate men’s health and well-being advocate
Founder of the men’s health charity: Grab Life By The Balls