I’ll start this by saying … EVERYONE can suffer from poor mental health. As a male counsellor, and because I work alongside 3 other amazing male therapists, James, Paul, and Ciro I wanted to write this on behalf of us…
We often see on social media, images and posts telling men to talk and open, up and every time I think to myself: ‘Yes!! Do it, life is so much easier with the absence of bravado, or the need to bury our emotions!
For a large part of my adult life, I didn’t think about sharing my thoughts and feelings, I always kept my emotions close to my chest, it was how I saw being a man.
Over the past 10 years as a counsellor though I’ve often thought that, as counsellors, we spend years learning and developing the skills to hold someone’s thoughts and feelings, their emotions, and stories without judgement. But, a large part of a client being able to open though is all about the environment and relationship that allows the client the space to be able to unburden themselves and lift that weight from their shoulders.
Looking back over my life, I don’t think it was that I didn’t want to talk about how I was feeling, but more, it was the lack of a safe space where I could. This isn’t a negative reflection on my friends or my amazing family, but it’s about our society and what is expected of men growing up. We’re taught through the media how men deal with their problems – we bottle them up, we just don’t talk about it, we put on a brave face and carry on. I just assumed I shouldn’t share and therefore didn’t, and I have no doubt the other men in my family and friendship groups were of a similar mindset.
So, this short blog isn’t aimed at the guys who need to share, but at you guys who might be able to offer a place, or a space to your mates to give them the opportunity to talk.
Being able to offer a space, or this kind of support isn’t about gossiping, giving him the perfect advice, or knowing the right things to say… it’s about truly listening, not to respond but hearing what they are saying. It doesn’t need to make sense to you, it probably doesn’t make sense to them, just listen, and know that there is the power of silence and just giving someone else the chance to talk.
We don’t need to wait for them to be open, as this is the whole point, we are trying to help our fellow man know we are ok with listening so try some simple prompts
“Mate you look stressed / worried/anxious, what’s going on?”
“Dude I just want you to know you can talk to me about sh*t if you need?”
As much as we like to world to think we don’t notice the small things we really do, so the worst thing we can do is ignore the signs that our guy is hurting, remember it isn’t not your job to fix, just listen. Trust me- it IS enough.
Still in doubt? Follow the Bro code…
Be aware - You notice that something is wrong – use a prompt (like the ones above). Keep it simple and make sure you have the time, if you don’t have the time then and there, then set a time to catch up with them.
Respect - LISTEN!! You don’t have to say anything. Occasional eye contact, not the weird intense kind, but enough so they know you got them. Keep the conversation on their subject, and don’t try and fix it. If they ask your opinion then if you have one you could tell them, but maybe you don’t know and that’s ok, just remind them that you’re there for them.
Offer acceptance - Give the man a ‘man hug’, high five, or hand on the shoulder. Let the bromance begin! It’s massively important the awkwardness doesn’t take over, let them know you all good, and remind them you are always there.
Lads, this may be against what we think we should or can do but it’s easy and can make a huge difference in our lives. We need to talk more, and we also need to make sure we are there when our fellow man needs to talk.
I will leave you with one final thought when we share with our fellow man, we not only help them, but also help ourselves, as we will often whist listening realise we are not alone in our own struggles, and can therefore become more open ourselves.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you to James, Paul and Ciro, for their amazing contributions to this blog, but also for their contributions to changing how we view “Man”
Hurting is NOT a weakness, but talking is a strength!