Personal Insights

How conversations with friends can save lives

There’s still stigma around men’s mental health, but when my best friend told me he was proud of me, it saved me.

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“I’m proud of you.” This is the one phrase a man wants to hear from the people around him. It can save a life – it saved mine, and it saved many close to me. 

In late 2021, I began to go through major life changes. Having left school, I had a small part-time job near London, and I was also going through a bad breakup. My mental health simply struggled to keep up. At the same time, I saw a similar situation unfolding to a friend of mine. We used to talk here and there about challenges we were overcoming, but never really understood the impact they had on our mental health. Until, one night, I was told that my friend had planned to take his own life. Without hesitation I picked up the phone and called him. For what seemed like hours, we exchanged news and updates, talking and listening, for the first time in a while. Nothing was going to stop me from letting my best friend know that he can confide in me, or another friend. 

A year later, we were driving in his car, and spoke about the situation we had overcome last year. We spoke honestly about how far we had made it in just one year – how? Speaking out and confiding in someone else helped both of us get where we wanted to go and achieve what we wanted to do. We both left school and worked hard in jobs we loved as well as experienced new social ventures. Today, we both feel that we are no longer confused or trapped in a world where we had no control. 

Years on, I would be lying if I said my mental health was fine and did not suffer from any issues – but we all do. 

Many men like me want to provide for their family, make our loved ones happy, no matter how much it takes, yet we forget about the real effects that pressure can have. 

To me, the difference between crumbling under pressure and achieving expectations I set for myself is the support I can lean on. I am comfortable talking to friends and family, with whom I can open up to when times are tough. 

I would often find myself at my worst point when I finally went to bed at night. My fear of death causes my anxiety to rise and overthinking small things stops me from putting myself first. I am aware that I have put others first but that is simply what makes me happy, seeing people smile. Helping and supporting others was a way to avoid letting issues affect me. Yet today, letting people go, putting myself first, and being exposed to many more emotions and experiences, I understand the importance of talking, accepting and acting on issues that trigger negative mental health. 

Beginning with a simple “I’ve been struggling lately” opens the floodgates of emotions and allows me to be vulnerable with the right people.

This should be possible for every person, more specifically, men. We often find ourselves wondering who we can turn to when life keeps dragging us underwater. That is truly how it feels — an uncontrollable struggle. Mental health is not just depression, it is the fidgeting of anxiety, staying in bed longer than you should, the forced smile that is worn every day and taken off when you finally get a moment alone. 

How phones can help 

In some ways, we have a life jacket right in the palm of our hands.

Social media can be blamed for depicting the “perfect man” but it is also home to a community where men feel included and their feelings are shared by millions around the world. Many platforms, like TikTok and Twitter, share posts to raise awareness on men’s mental health and try to build a place where they are heard and valued. No problem is too much of a burden to share. 

So, if you are reading this and have struggled – I’m proud of you. 

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