My Experience of Being a Male with Mental Health Challenges
How do we define masculinity?
I feel a big problem with society currently is that we have created a certain image of what being “masculine” should look like. Unfortunately this image doesn’t seem to think that mental health, or expressing our emotions in positive ways, are qualities worth talking about.
The stigma around expressing your emotions and vulnerability as a male was a major contributing factor in denying myself the help I needed for several years.
Losing both my parents before the age of 21 and moving out of home at the age of 15, my mental health was at its lowest point. I was trying to deal with my grief, as well as trying to understand all these mixed emotions, thoughts and feelings inside my head, alone.
What stopped me from seeking help?
Firstly, I allowed myself to believe that I would be judged for seeing a psychologist. What would my friends think of me? Would they think I was crazy?
I was raised, like a lot of other males, to believe that men don’t cry. We can’t express our emotions or vulnerability. Whenever I was upset, I was told to “suck it up” or “just eat some concrete and harden up”.
I am aware now how wrong this is, but to this day society still raises our kids to believe that these ideas are “normal”.
The day my life changed forever!
On this day, I had just been released from hospital after spending a week in the Mental Health Unit. I had finally come to the important realisation that the only way I could begin my recovery from my mental ill health was to speak up.
This wasn’t easy, trying to unlearn the beliefs I had instilled in me about not talking or expressing my emotions/problems, and instead having a new outlook on the way we look at mental health – especially for men.
As I finally spoke up about my issues and began my journey to recovery, it was life changing. However, it was still difficult to get used to being in my most vulnerable state, coming to terms with my depression and anxiety, and doing my best to work through any negative thoughts or emotions.
The key thing that helped my recovery was creating a positive support network around me, and always remembering that I don’t have go through my journey alone anymore.
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.
To book your first call visit: efriend.org.au