Men have no idea how to talk about pain.
Who can blame us? We’ve been taught for generations that it’s shameful and embarrassing to. We might as well bury our emotions deep down instead right?
Well, I want to try to break down how everyone can create a safe space to talk about mental health.
Recognize the signs of poor mental health.
Either for yourself or someone else, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Just because someone is smiling, doesn’t mean they are happy. They could actually feel anxious or irritable.
- Someone seems a lot less motivated than usual.
- They might be avoiding social situations.
- They might be acting differently socially or drinking too much at an occasion.
It’s hard to talk about pain. We don’t want a solution off the bat, we just want to be seen and heard.
Be kind. Everyone is still healing from things they don’t speak about.
How to approach someone who might be suffering:
When you walk into a room, and you notice one of your buddies has their head down on the table. Maybe they jerk upright the minute they notice you, as if nothing had happened.
Go up to them and say “hey, you all good? You’ve been quiet lately” and “I’m here to help if you need it”.
In that moment, you haven’t offered them a cure-it-all solution, but allowed them to be seen and heard.
If they say anything (usually they wait and come back to you), follow it up with “I get it”.
Put all of your focus on listening to the story.
It’s okay to not completely understand it sometimes, most people don’t expect you to, just make sure the effort and intent is there.
Compassion over judgement:
Why is it so difficult to talk about mental health? Stigma!!
“What will people think of me? I’m not weak and I’m not incompetent. What if they judge me? Can I trust them?”
These are a few of the thoughts which race through someone’s mind.
The key connection to build is trust.
When you offer compassion and understanding instead of a scientific approach to talking about pain, you create vulnerability, and that creates connection, which is followed by trust.
That’s what it’s all about. That human connection.
Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.
If you want something different, you have to do something different.
Let’s get real. Nothing is ever handed to you. Getting better starts with ourselves.
I realized that if I wanted to get better, I had to surround myself with people who spoke the same language as me: people who have gone through it and who could actually help me understand.
When I started talking about certain struggles, this incredible thing happened. I started hearing “me too”. I wasn’t alone!
Sometimes, the first few times we have “deep conversations”, we want to get the hell out of there. I get it.
After a while, especially looking back on now, I realized all I really wanted was vulnerability.
I hope this helps a bit for those who go through it or know someone else who continues to suffer in silence.
This piece was inspired by the following insightful resources on men’s mental health, which you can look at for extra information:
- “I’m proud of you” (article)
- Mental Health (creator)