I was honoured to be on the panel at the recent Brighton premier of the new documentary - STEVE - a documentary to help men battle depression. The shocking fact that 12 men per day take their own lives, in the UK, is one that needs more attention and more interventions aimed at changing it.
The film maker, Ben Akers, opened the evening by stating that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 and it's scary to think that the thing he has to be most worried about killing him - is himself!
The documentary centers around Ben's best mate, Steve Yates, who took his own life five years ago, leaving behind a wife and two young children. Steve represents one of the many men who feel so overwhelmed by their mental struggles, that they reach their only possible solution, to fix that problem by ending their lives. Unfortunately, men are less likely to share vulnerable feelings than women. Men, when faced with a perceived lack of purpose or faced with financial insecurity, job dissatisfaction or overwhelming pressures to provide beyond what they deem possible, lose their sense of identity. As a man this can be crippling and make life seem not worth living.
But 'seem' is the key word here and men need to know about the power of perspective. Help is available. More and more men's talk therapy groups, such as Andy's Man Club, are popping up Nationwide to encourage guys to get stuff off their chest in an environment that makes them feel heard, as men and women have different communication styles and while some men can talk to their wives/girlfriends/sisters/friends about how they feel, others will not or feel they cannot. Some men have repressed their feelings so much that they feel they cannot access the right words to describe how they feel, and may answer with 'I don't know'. In this instance it can be useful to ask the man in your life how they feel today on a scale of 1-10, with one being awful and ten being amazing to gain insight into their current mental fitness level.
Interventions and evidence-based theories from Positive Psychology can help all people change:
-Developing a regular gratitude practice can help to cultivate more optimism and hope (we can be grateful for a million tiny things a day, such as having eyelids so we can sleep, pillows, blinds to keep the light out, electricity, running water, a place to live, a democratic political system, oxygen to breath easily, information available for free, access to education, an environment that is filled with beauty etc.
EASY ACTION STEP: Say three things in your mind that were good during the day before going to sleep.
-Regular mindfulness practice can enable you to realise the power of attaching to thoughts. Thoughts are so transient and do not reflect reality. They are subjective and can be changed. The first step to changing your thoughts is having an awareness of them and being able to listen to them without being stuck in an automatic way of operating. It is not necessary to close your eyes during mindfulness practice as some (especially those with PTSD) find this distressing. Meditation has been found to increase happiness by up to 10% too!
EASY ACTION STEP: Download Insight Timer (it's free) and play around with all the different guided meditations on offer.
-Get outside with nature more. Interact with nature, animals, spend time at the beach, in the garden, in the sun, in the water. There is surmounting evidence supporting the benefits of nature on wellbeing and positive emotions.
-Remember you are not alone. We are all in this human experience together. There is a significantly high chance that what you are currently experiencing is also being experienced by someone else who also feels alone.
EASY ACTION STEP: Get out of the house for at least 30 mins before 11am to get that essential daylight in your eyes. It seriously effects wellbeing.
-Exercise. It's so worth it. Endorphin CENTRAL. However it works a bit like alcohol - the more you do, the more you want to do. The less you do, the less you want to do! The key is to push to just get those workout clothes on. Once they're on you've basically done the work out - it all starts with the intention.
EASY ACTION STEP: Get your workout clothes clean and visible.
-Alcohol, make a conscious effort to cut back on it. Even that 'moderation' drinking of 1 or 2 per day serious impacts happiness levels. It's a depressant. It stays in your body for 10 days and produces very subtle, almost imperceptible withdrawal symptoms such as irritability which could negatively effect your relationships - sound familiar?
EASY ACTION STEP: Download the drink aware app and log drinks/ have a 3 day per week no drinking rule/ try the 30 day challenge / try the 10-day challenge / read this
Everyone needs to see this documentary so we can have more awareness and more compassion for all the amazing men in the world who are suffering in silence and offer our support, love and connection.