Mens Mental Health Matters

Men’s mental health and the challenges they face is an often neglected topic, especially around admitting the need for help, accessing help and accepting help. For instance: Did you know 1 in 8 men experience a common mental health problem (1)? Or that many men don’t seek help or talk with their loved ones about how they are feeling (2)?

Father walking with his children
Men’s Mental Health Matters

In my own research I have heard repeatedly that admitting you even have a mental health problem is hard, because of societal and cultural expectations. There is traditional view of masculinity that perpetuates the values of strength, control, being a support, a breadwinner; that a boy or young man learns to live up to. we’ve all heard phrases like ‘What are you crying for, you big girls blouse?’ ‘Man up!’ ‘Suck it up cupcake’ and others. These verbal cues teach the idea that expressing your feelings, thoughts and pain are not manly and therfore are unacceptable. We’d like to think they aren’t still with us, but the research shows, they stop men even admitting to themselves they have a problem.

Accessing help has pitfalls too. If you struggle to admit something by the time you ask for help a moderate problem could have easily become severe. This can mean by the time men access help they are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and self-harm as a coping mechanism (3). Mental health services are typically oversubscribed and have long waiting lists, with the delay in putting yourself forward added, men can feel quite desperate and resentful when help eventually comes. It is no surprise that in 2017, 75% of suicides were males (4) and that suicide represents the largest cause of death for men under 50 (5).  

Accepting help can be hard too, in my experience not only have men had a long journey to get help, once they do, knowing how to use it is hard. If you have never discussed your feelings before you may have to learn a whole new emotional language to articulate what’s going on inside of you. A major cause of men dropping out of therapy is not feeling understood or feeling judged.

So how can we help?

  • As parents we can help equip our boys and young men with the language and space to be able to discuss their feelings and to be heard.
  • We can ask our friends and colleagues how they are and after the usual ‘I’m fine’ ask how they really are.
  • If you notice a friend ‘drowning their sorrows’ make some time to talk with them.
  • If you seek professional help, know that a good therapist will help you to find the words to describe what you are feeling, and will not be judgemental.

Support is out there, and private therapy can help you to be seen sooner, and to work with someone you feel comfortable with. Many therapists, like me, offer a free first session to discuss what’s going on for you and to see if you feel comfortable working together. If you’d like to try it for yourself click the button below and book an appointment, or keep in touch by signing up for our bulletin.

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References

(1) McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf

(2) Mental Health Foundation (2016). Survey of people with lived experience of mental health problems reveals men less likely to seek medical support. Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/survey-people-lived-experience-ment…

(3) Wylie, C., Platt, S., Brownlie, J., Chandler, A., Connolly, S., Evans, R… Scourfield, J. (2012). Men, suicide, and society: Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide. Samaritans. Retrieved from: https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/press/Men%…

(4) Office for National Statistics (2017). Suicides in the UK: 2016 registrations. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations#suicides-in-the-uk

(5) Public Health England. (2017). Chapter 2: Major causes of death and how they have changed. Health Profile for England 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-profile-for-england/ch…

Choosing A Private Counsellor

Ever felt worried, down, stressed, sad or scared? We all experience these emotions from time to time, and they usually pass and we move on. Sometimes though when you find yourself in a difficult situation such as divorce, losing a loved one, relationship difficulties, when you are facing depression, and/or anxiety, or are stressed with problems at work or with your children, the feelings don’t pass so easily and you begin to feel stuck. At times like these it can be helpful to to talk to a qualified, professional. So where should you go for help?

Many people’s first point of call is a GP or wellbeing centre, however a LOT of people I see, struggle with long waiting times, not being able to access more than 6-8 sessions, seeing different people during the assessment process, so they have to tell people their story over and over again, not being offered the therapy they want, and most importantly not being able to choose their therapist.

The impact this has, is that many people say therapy doesn’t work for them and their bad experience then stops them from seeking further help. So what’s the alternative?

As someone who has no vested interest in a particular outcome, a private counsellor can provide a non-judgemental, unbiased, listening ear. Exploring with you what has happened, why that might be and how it feels for you to experience that situation, and what might be the best way for you to move forward.

Unlike in the NHS or an EAP (employee assistance program) you will be seen by one person, who assesses and then treats you. In the case of EAPs there is no reporting back to your HR (human resources) department or boss, ensuring greater confidentiality. There are no waiting times and you can have sessions for as long as you need. When looking for a therapist you can choose one who offers the kind of therapy you are looking for such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling or psychotherapy. Most importantly you can choose to work with someone you feel you get on with and have a good rapport with.

The reason many counsellors, like myself offer a FREE initial appointment, is because we know that the biggest predictor for how well YOU do in therapy is based on how well you get on with your therapist. I’ll say it again: If you have a good rapport with your therapist, your counselling will have a better outcome, regardless of the type of therapy you choose to have.

So it’s worth you meeting and talking with a few counsellors to see who you would like to work with. A good therapist will be on a voluntary register either with the BACP (British association for counselling and psychotherapy) or NCS (national counselling society), have a discosure and barring service (DBS) check, and have insurance.

So if you’d like to see if we can work together click the link below and get in touch, or if you’d like to find out more about how I work, please sign up for my fortnightly bulletin.

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Kindness Through Compassion

This week is mental health awareness week, and the theme is kindness. For me kindness and compassion go hand in hand, especially in these unprecedented times. Through compassion we can find the path to being kind to ourselves and others.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines compassion as:

Noun:[mass noun]

 sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion

Origin:

Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with’

Other definitions describe a deep understanding and sympathy for the plight of others. So what has this got to do with counselling, and what does it mean for our sense of self?

As a Counsellor I spend a lot of time with Clients creating a non-judgemental compassionate space where they can explore what’s going on for them. This allows Client’s not just time to speak and for me to hear to what they are really trying to say; but also for them to really listen to themselves, to really hear and feel what they are saying and what it means for how they would like things to be.

Sometimes really seeing yourself and how life is for you, can feel harsh; to face the unhappiness and issues head on for the first time, needs not just understanding and empathy from your Counsellor but also from yourself. Time and again I see how little compassion people have for themselves, and how desperately they need that to change.

Even the definition of compassion that I started with suggests compassion is something you can only have for other people, but in my experience this is just not true. If you can cultivate a deep understanding, empathy and sympathy for how you got to where you are and why you are so unhappy or distressed you can begin to forgive yourself and let go.

We have all made poor choices at times, found ourselves in situations we were unable to cope with, felt stressed, depressed, unhappy or at a loss. If we allow ourselves to be ok with that and give our selves permission to start again, without having to bring the baggage of self-blame to all the other issues we have to deal with; we can give ourselves the freedom to make the changes we want.

For instance if a family member has died 6 months ago, is it still ok to feel sad? To still be looking for their face in familiar places? To still miss them? To still struggle to get out of bed? Or to still be crying? If you can treat your self with compassion, to understand what that person meant to you, what a big part they played in your life and what it feels like now they are gone; you begin to allow yourself time to grieve, without denigrating yourself every time it is hard to get out of bed or you find yourself crying at something that reminds you of them. You give yourself permission to heal in your own time, in the way that works for you.

So how do you cultivate compassion for yourself and others, when it is easy to put yourself down and play the blame game?

Don’t be so quick to judge: try to understand why you or others are acting the way they are.

Imagine what it’s like: Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, what do you imagine it feels like. Conversely if you were your own best friend, what would you imagine you would say or do to comfort you?

Try to find a peaceful space: Meditation, listening to music, baking, painting and doing something creative are all ways to focus on something positive for a while. Sometimes our emotional and mental lives are heavy and stressful, giving yourself space and permission to do something you enjoy encourages peace and healing.

If you would like to discuss this further do get in touch

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The Fear Of Chanting

As you know I run a meditation class and inevitably once every 3-6 months I will schedule a class that involves chanting. Invariably this will mean I will have less people turn up on the night with excuses that vary from ‘I have a family thing planned’ to no response at all, so what’s going on?

It’s not coincidence that a lot of people suddenly have something to do, at first I thought it was me, something I wasn’t getting right, then the penny dropped. It was FEAR.

The fear seems to be less around internal chanting, and more around actually using one’s voice.

Chants can come in many forms, some religious, some as sounds and some as affirmations; all are useful in different ways. Much like music can change and influence our mood, thoughts and wellbeing, so can chant. The difference is, the sound in chanting comes from the inside outwards, rather than the outside in. This projection of your own sound, your own voice is really difficult for some people.

The people who struggle and avoid chanting are often the ones who need it the most, to have their voices heard, to be able to find themselves and their voice, to actually listen to themselves.  It requires courage to project your voice and be heard. I often find that the people who fear chanting are the ones who find it hard to say ‘no’, they are the givers, carers and worriers of the world.

Yet when they do find their courage, the strength to listen and to make themselves heard, the transformation in them is astounding. Their faces lighten and they sing from their heart and soul. They take back their power, and express themselves beautifully.

So the next time you have the opportunity to chant, take a deep breath and face your fear, sing loud and proud, of who you are and who you want to be.

Why not find out when our next meditation group is so that you can join us? Details of this group are circulated in our regular bulletin: Strategies For Living In An Anxious World, keep up-to-date by signing up below.

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Overthinking

We all do it, especially when we are stressed or worried. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, loss, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, attachment disorder etc often have overthinking as a symptom.

So what is overthinking?

Overthinking is defined as thinking about something for too long or analysing it in a way that is more harmful than helpful. Very often it has a repetitive quality, someone with social anxiety for instance may overthink how they were in a social situation, what they did or said and will repetitively do this for most, if not all sociable experiences.

Why do we do overthink?

It is often because we care, we care about what someone else thinks, we care about what will happen next, and we care about how others see us. This caring leads us to be concerned about the outcome of a relationship, a conversation or result. So our ever ‘helpful’ brain decides that if it analyses all the possible outcomes we can be prepared, it’s so good at this it will even analyse an event, meeting or result BEFORE it’s even happened. There are two main issues with our brains doing this:

  1. Our brain cannot possibly compute every outcome
  2. Our brain is influenced by any biases we have whether they are positive or negative. (If we are worriers or have a mental health issue this is usually a negative bias, but in mania, and some other conditions it can manifest as a positive bias.)

We can experience overthinking as:

  • Not being able to think of anything but the subject/person we are worried about.
  • Interfering with our ability to function.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased stress levels.
  • Things feeling bleak.
  • Avoiding situations you are worried about.
  • Conversely, if you have a positive bias, getting into situations that are risky or more complicated than you had imagined.
  • Difficulty eating or eating too much in a bid to feel better.
  • A form of self-harm
  • Causing anxiety.

So what’s normal?

We all worry at times. We get nervous about things that matter to us like exams, job interviews, going on stage etc and during these periods we may experience overthinking. Overthinking becomes a problem when it doesn’t end after the specific event is over, when it becomes more generalised and we do it everyday. If overthinking is taking over your life, you should seek help from a qualified professional like a counsellor.

What we can do about overthinking?

So you are tired of overthinking, the sleepless nights, the constant worry, life feeling overwhelming and that you can’t seem to get out of your own head. So what do you do?

Especially when talking to others about their overthinking and worry, I find that most people use short to medium-term solutions, tips and tricks they have picked up to help in the moment. These include:

  • Distractions like: talking to someone, listening to music, listening to podcasts, and watching TV.
  • Mindful approaches like: grounding, breathing techniques, and fingertip touching.
  • Facing the problem: checking the facts, testing your assumptions, and talking it through with someone.
  • Getting support: help from family or friends when you are going through an tough time that needs extra support like exams, stage fright, PIP appeals.

Whilst all of these approaches can help you to feel better, people will repeat them over and over again because they still overthink.

My treatment plan for clients experiencing overthinking is a two-pronged approach, I will initially use short to medium-term interventions to give clients tools to help in the moment. But I also recommend more.

At the same time I will teach you a longer-term strategy to help you stop overthinking altogether so that eventually you don’t need the tips and tricks anymore.

So what do I recommend for chronic overthinkers?

Firstly we will try out and choose a short-term strategy that works for you, nursery rhymes or other distraction techniques are a favourite of most of the people I work with.

Next we work on the habit of overthinking. Noticing when you overthink allows you to name it, then you can catch yourself doing it and then you can change the habit to something else. One of my clients for instance will catch herself overthinking and acknowledge that she is worried about a particular issue, but the will choose to focus on something else and deal with the problem later. By the time later comes, the problem has often resolved itself.

For some people (especially those where the overthinking is more generalised and doesn’t have a specific cause) learning the first steps in meditation, where you focus on an object, sound, your breath or a sensation, can teach their mind to slow down and stop overthinking.

Learning to relax through Reiki or meditation can help to reset the balance in our bodies. letting go of the tension and stress that overthinking places in our bodies can be really helpful and replaces the the habit of overthinking with one of peace and calm.

Sometimes if your overthinking is part of a larger condition like anxiety, depression, Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotianlly Unstable Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or due to trauma or abuse, counselling can be a way forward. Counselling will provide support in the moment and help you to work through the issues you are facing, to help you find a better tomorrow.

None of these approaches is mutually exclusive, you can mix and match what works for you. My hope in writing this is that, as well as the short-term tips and tricks to beat anxiety and overthinking you see on Facebook and in ads, you will also consider using a long-term strategy alongside it so you find you don’t overthink in the first place.

If you would like to discuss this further please get in touch by clicking the button below.