Mental Health is such a complicated topic, especially before you start adding society’s perception of it into the mix.
People have historically seen the term ‘mental health’ as a fluffy or ‘invisible’ subject that isn’t worth exploring.
“You can’t see it so what’s the issue?”
The issue is that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem in their lives and I can guarantee a solid 1 in 1 people know someone with a mental health problem.
Who suffers from this? The answer is everyone, but it is society and it’s perception of mental health that has done the most damage, especially in men. In fact in 2013, 6,233 deaths by suicide were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older. Of these, 78% were male and 22% were female.
But what were us boys taught growing up and what has it caused? – “Are you going to cry like a little girl?”, or how about “man-up”, “get over it” or “don’t be a woman”. These perceptions are indoctrinated into us from the moment we can walk, we’re told to keep quiet and that the health of our mind isn’t even worth thinking about. Our friends have all been told the same thing so we can’t talk to them. Who do we talk to? Dad? Grandad? Brother? They probably wouldn’t understand, we’ll just keep it to ourselves. What if they think of me as less of a man? It’s not worth it. Just leave it.
Not addressing a mental health problem can actually be the true problem, it’s always worth it. Don’t leave it.
In my late teens to early twenties, I suffered with terrible body image and self-perception, I hated the way I looked and tried so many different looks, styles and ways to try and fit in somewhere. I was embarrassed to ask for help because I should’ve been concentrating on school or sports like everyone else. I was so in my own head and I certainly wasn’t mentally healthy. I felt embarrassed addressing it so I just didn’t and exposing my weaknesses made me weak, so I didn’t do that either.
I wanted to tell people and I wanted them to make me feel better, but boys are supposed to be funny, loud and into their sports so ‘just keep your mouth shut Luke and carry on as you are.’
For years I felt out of place and like I didn’t fit in with everyone else, always feeling like I was wearing the wrong thing or doing my hair the wrong way. I put every ounce of my self-value in other people’s opinions. It wasn’t until I had just turned 21 and erupted in my first and last full blown panic attack one evening after catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I decided I needed to speak to a friend.
After that, everything got easier. We came up with a plan to get me back to a happy me. I dived face first into the world of fitness and the gym (a place I was once petrified of), hell-bent on improving the way I look, started experimenting with different skincare products, learning what worked for my face and style and not what everyone else was doing, and didn’t give a second thought to what everyone else was thinking, because I was feeling great.
Flash forward to today, I visit the gym 6-7 times a week and love the way I look. I’m a part-time social media influencer and model, a full-time Marketing Executive and Events Coordinator and taking part in this year’s Mr. World competition representing Wales. None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t stood with my friends, looked at my insecurities and my mental health in the eye, and told it to do one.
By being a part of MESOA, I am expressing my absolute hatred to the stigma that’s attached to men’s mental health and my vow to help change it.
This is the first time and the first place I have shared this story, and all I hope is that someone reading this will realise that us guys, just like everyone else, need some help too.
Look good. Feel good. Do good.