More and more men are struggling with mental illness, which means more and more are struggling to talk about it. Though it doesn’t apply to all men, so many men avoid talking about what’s going on inside their minds out of fear of being judged or ignored – or told to ‘man up’.
And so, to encourage men to speak out about their mental health and seek help, Metro spoke to 20 different men about mental illness. They told Metro what they live with, how it affects them and the one thing they wish others knew about men’s mental health – in hopes it’ll encourage more men suffering in silence to seek help.
Ash, 27, has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety
Ash says anxiety and depression can be ‘debilitating’, and affects things like his motivation, nutrition and relationships. He also suffers from panic attacks.
“The main thing I wish everyone knew about mental health is that everyone’s mental health is important and fragile, and it’s okay if you don’t have complete control of it, you can still lead a normal life as a fully functioning member of society. And for those who come across those with mental health difficulties, don’t be so quick to turn away from them. It’s scary enough dealing with it on your own, sometimes having someone that understands is what it takes to make it through the day. And if you do know someone close to you that’s suffering, please check up on them from time to time. Even if they don’t open up, just knowing that someone is willing to be there for them will make a difference.”
Sean, 36, who is from the US, has been diagnosed with ADHD
“I truly wish people understood that there is no quick fix to mental issues, that it depends on the area you seek out help, the state, etc. I have a nephew that has been misdiagnosed 5 times in New York City, and there is no support network here for preventative diagnosis. We’re either utterly broken or perfectly fine in the eyes of the state.”
Brendan, 34, says the one thing he wish others knew about mental health is how weak it has made him feel due to the stigma around mental illness
“I was always told to ‘man up’, ‘grow a pair’ or ‘get over it’. I guess that’s all part and parcel of people not realising that mental health is a real illness, not an attitude. It’s universal for men and women but as a boy I was told to be tough and not vulnerable. Letting go of that mindset and acknowledging I had a problem that needed to be talked about was vitally important. Life saving even. I think people really need to understand. The ‘manliest’ moment in my life didn’t happen when I was ever displaying how tough I was, it happened when I opened up about how fragile I always am. That. That was real bravery. Admitting you’re not strong is the strongest you’ll ever feel. Not necessarily at first, but you soon realise. You’ve never been more of a ‘man’.”
TJ, 24, who lives with anxiety, says it often causes him to ‘overthink, second guess’ himself and ‘panic’
“It affects me mentally and physically. It’s part of me. It may take me longer to do things, it may make me react better to certain situations than the average person. But it’s not all I am. I’m multifaceted. I have hopes and fears. I enjoy things and despise things. I love and fear things in my own personal way, like everyone else does.”
Duncan, 29, has ‘moderate anxiety and depression’
His diagnoses cause him to have bi-weekly panic attacks and low self image, which causes him to over-eat. He has difficulties maintaining relationships.
He wishes others knew that “so much of the struggle comes down to isolation. Something that makes a surprising difference is creating informal, friendly environments for checking in and sharing stories; for example, I co-host a YouTube/Twitch show called Broverwatch, where we sit down with a guest to catch up and have a chat about a mental health issue while playing a video game together – but this could also be the pub after football, or a book club, or even a group chat.”
Dan, 34, who has major depression, says he wants people to know that his mental health doesn’t define him
“I used to call myself a depressive. It was an easy way to explain myself. A short cut. But it only shortchanged me, in the long run. It was another barrier I put in the way to stop people getting to know me. I don’t say that anymore, because I am not my depression. I realised that by defining myself by my illness I was limiting my own recovery, and my growth. These associations aren’t always meant as a negative. I’m a writer, and I find the romanticised way people link mental health and creativity to be very reductive. A creative outlet like writing has been instrumental in helping me navigate depressive episodes, or to make sense of my thoughts and feelings. But depression doesn’t make me a better writer. It has taken years of practice and failure to get to this point (my debut novel, Johnny Ruin, is released in the UK on March 22). Saying I owe my creativity to my mental health takes away all that hard work. Depression is not a superpower.”
Ian, 53, was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and has suicidal tendencies which are linked to PTSD
Though he has learned to cope with his illness, he says some days are better than others.
“The one thing I wish people knew about mental health is that you are not alone and it is okay to not be okay. You are not alone.”
Peter, 28, who has bipolar disorder, says the mood disorder affects him in all sorts of ways If he’s depressed, he finds it difficult to go to the gym or even prepare food
He feels it really affects him physically. The main thing he wishes others knew about mental illness is that it’s not something they’re “somehow smarter than”.
“There are all sorts of bizarre things mental illness can make you do; but it’s happening to your brain and thinking you’re bigger than that and able to see through what’s going on can end up exacerbating the whole situation. ‘Swallow your pride and get help from a trained mental health professional.”
Jamie, 31, has anxiety and depression
He adds that his anxiety and depression can also affect him physically, making it tough to do his job at times, or even get out of bed.
“I guess the number one thing I’d like to make clear is that there’s no easy quick fix, no diet that can just cure a person, no regimen of medications that’ll work for everyone across the board. It’s a lengthy and deeply personal process. Basically: please stop sending me articles about cutting out gluten.”
Stephen, 27, who has an anxiety disorder
He wishes people knew ‘just how things can truly affect’ men living with mental illness.
“For example, social media has some people thinking mental health is a one type of thing. How words can effect someone and really hurt, which is why we should always treat each other with kindness. In America, mental health is not taken as seriously as it needs to be. People need to learn and educate themselves on the signs.”
Sebastian, 25, lives with borderline personality disorder
His BPD affects the way he interacts with people. He says he feels his emotions more intensely than the average person which can affect his relationships. He has extreme reactions to abandonment and suffers with anxiety attacks, which have in the past lead him to self harm. Sebastian wishes people were more educated on BPD and what people who live with it go through. ‘So many of BPD traits are demonised by people as we’re ‘just clingy’ or ‘abusive’ based on 1 or 2 extreme high profile examples, instead of listening to us. ‘Our attachment issues are often used against us but we rarely see sympathy as people hear one story of someone writing a letter in blood to their boyfriend or something and think that’s all of us, instead of listening to us. ‘Also on a personal note: I kinda wish people knew that men can suffer from BPD too? I think its percieved as a feminine disorder for some reason and people seem shocked when I tell them I have it!’
David, 55, lives with schizophrenia
David says his schizophrenia can be distracting and incredibly disturbing. “Mental illness is actually very painful, and uncomfortable.”
Steve, 35, has anxiety
“I wish more people realised how much men are pressures to be “strong” and emotions are labelled as weakness… and that negatively effects men’s health, and their willingness to seek treatment.”
Antonio, 29, who also lives with anxiety, adds that he wishes others knew that when it comes to mental health, everyone is ‘different’
“Mental health problems affect people in different ways and equally there are no ‘one size fits all’ treatments. What might work for some people won’t necessarily work for me.”
Tom, 33, who has social anxiety, which makes him feel he’s ‘not good enough’
“I’ve also never felt that people care about me – I like to keep in touch with my friends on a semi regular basis & then don’t hear back from them but see that they are commenting or liking other things on social media.”
“When I do meet someone who is different, I naturally then tend to gravitate toward that person and then get really anxious that I’m going to do or say something that pushes them away. Then end up going into a tailspin. It affects me on a weekly basis because I regularly get upset when I don’t hear from people, thinking I’ve done wrong and/or feeling like they don’t care enough to respond. The one thing I wish people would understand and appreciate about anyone’s mental health is that although everyone’s is different, one message can change someone’s life. Even if someone didn’t have the time – just a quick reply to say ‘everything’s ok, will reply as soon as I can’ will make all the difference. ‘Contact out of the blue as well – instead of me always being the first one to get in touch. It’ll make me feel like I’m cared about and start giving me more confidence in other areas of my life.”
Kevin, 35, has anxiety and depression, which when they’re at their worst makes him very ‘antisocial, reclusive and paranoid’
“The one thing I would really wish others new about mental health is that people deal with mental health in different ways, responding how people would not expect doesn’t always mean the issue has gone or I am fine. People with long term mental health become good at hiding it from people,” he said.
Matt, 26, who also has depression and anxiety
“It makes simple tasks difficult, makes talking to people even more difficult. Makes life a total and complete struggle in every way you can think of.”
Read more on Metro.co.uk.