10th Jun, 18
Start Talking Stop the Stigma
Start Talking; Stop the Stigma
This blog was written to promote the incredible work carried out by a campaign close to my heart: Start Talking; Stop the Stigma. The campaign aims to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, encouraging people to talk about their mental health and seek help during times of difficulty.
Start Talking; Stop the Stigma was set up two years ago by a wonderful family who I have known for many years. Noreen and John Christy lost their son Nathan to suicide in 2016 and they have been campaigning ever since to raise money for national mental health and children’s charities, including CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and Action for Children (AfC). Last month on Nathan’s birthday (6th May 2018) his family organised a fun run in Haigh Country Park. This is the latest of numerous charity events held to raise awareness and to keep the memory of Nathan alive. The family have already raised more than £10,000 through tribute rugby matches, fun days, half marathons and more.
Nathan was only 25 years of age when he took his life: he was such a lovely person who had a smile on his face every time I saw him. This just shows how easily someone can mask how they are really feeling, which is an incredibly exhausting thing for them to have to do. But because individuals do not let others know the distress they are feeling, there is very little other people can do. This is why we need to encourage as many people as possible to talk about their mental health and seek help during times of need: any of us can go through times of difficulty and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Although we cannot see mental health we need to mindful that someone we know may be struggling and provide a listening ear for people for if they do decide they want to talk.
The recent storyline aired on Coronation Street whereby Aidan Connor took his own life also highlighted how someone with depression can hide their true feelings. The UK charity Papyrus reported that this storyline resulted in one of the busiest days for their suicide prevention helpline. Papyrus is dedicated to the prevention of young suicides and work tirelessly around the country providing direct support to young people, as well as delivering suicide prevention training for professionals. Based on this, it seems the storyline has had a positive impact by encouraging people to telephone the helpline and seek help. There is subsequently a need for additional storylines to be written which furthermore emphasise the importance of talking about our mental health.
Mental Health Statistics for Males
The Men’s Health Forum reported some shocking statistics around mental health in males in the year 2016:
· Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35.
· 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders.
· Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.
· Men are more likely to use illegal drugs.
· Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services are men.
The above statistics highlight some distressing figures with regards to the mental health of males. Given alcohol and illegal drugs are often used as a way of coping with emotional difficulties it is not surprising these links are also evident. Ways of coping by using alcohol and drugs can quickly spiral into a lifestyle of destruction whereby people see little way out. There is still so much stigma attached to mental health that people often feel they need to remain silent and are reluctant to admit they have a problem.
But why is it that males are less likely to reach out for help?
A report written by Lee Cambule working for MIND in 2017 stated how one of the reasons men are less likely to admit they have a problem and seek help is due to the many outdated stereotypes which still exist for men: with men being viewed as a source of “strength, dominating positions of power, the hunter-gatherer, the idea that strong and silent is alluring/attractive and the ‘show no weakness’ bravado of heroes in our media”. In many of these macho images there is little room for showing poor mental health. However, what is great is that many revered men are coming forward to speak about their own mental health challenges, such as Prince William and Harry. This is most certainly a step in the right direction.
We therefore need to continue to break down these stereotypes and encourage more men to seek help, with campaigns such as Start Talking; Stop the Stigma leading the way in doing this. I return to my original argument stated in my previous blogs written, in that if more support was put in place during childhood and young people were encouraged to talk about their mental health, then adults would be a lot more open about discussing any mental health difficulties and seeking help for them.
Nathan will never be forgotten, and the work carried out by Start Talking; Stop the Stigma continues to keep his memory alive.
· Mind have produced guidance for anyone worried about seeking help for a mental health problem and this guidance can be found at this link:
· Papyrus Suicide Prevention Helpline: 0800 068 4141
· The Samaritans: 116 123
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