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by Sian Atkins November 13, 2022 8 min read
This month marks Movember; a leading charity changing the face of men's health.
I read a statistic today; "Globally, on average,one man dies by suicide every minute, of every day."
So today I’m being as real as it gets; let's talk about mental health.
We all have it; we should all look after it, and some people have mental health struggles worse than others. Some mask it well, some people cope by seeking help and talking, then there are the people who don't.
It's become more apparent to me the last few years how serious a problem mental health is. I guess when I was a child, it just wasn't spoken about so much, obviously there was no social media and the TV channels were minimal, so I can never remember seeing ads or awareness posters at all growing up, but of course it has always been there, it's just more widely recognised now.
I can honestly say, I have had my own moments where I will put my hands up and say I have felt depressed, it's not a play on the word, and it's not a label I would just throw around either, I have truly felt it.
The absolute feeling of sadness that is super overwhelming, the lack of motivation so deep you want to cry because your body aches and everything is an effort, you crave to get up and feel happy, yet all you want to do is sleep, crying all the time, feeling hopeless, and hoping that tomorrow you will feel better. Yep, I have had this more than once, but I'm lucky I have been able to talk. I talk to my husband straight away and when I have had these bouts of depression he's always able to help carry me forward. I'm fortunate that I’m an open book, as a human anyway. I’m happy to talk, be honest, show emotion, it's just who I am. I'm also fortunate that I can seem to gather enough 'inner me' to pull myself up and out of bed, get myself in the shower, get myself dressed, eat food; even when this feels so much like hard work, just baby steps and small completed tasks really do make the biggest difference. I'm so lucky I always find my way out of the darkness I feel, and back to myself again.
But, it's not easy, and for some it feels almost unachievable. I just wish that everyone knew, that in time, and with help, you can get through the darkness and into the light.
I worked as a teaching assistant at an inpatient hospital for 2 years, and the school was attached to the hospital. It was an integrated tier 4 (inpatient wards) child and adolescent mental health service alongside a Department for Education, Ofsted - registered school.
I loved my role, but I saw and felt things that are heartbreaking to witness children go through mentally, and as a mum it made me feel so sad that such young people were feeling this way, or had suffered when they are so early in life.
It changes your perspective forever.
I also know at least one of the students I worked alongside since, has died of suicide. His life was only just starting, it's not right or fair that he felt this way. That's why we must all reach out and check on friends and family, ask them if they are okay, and ask them twice.
Suicide is a word I have known since I was young as I saw it it films, heard about it, but always felt so confused by it. I suppose because I never really knew much about it, until I learnt more when working in the mental health sector. I know it always saddens me for sure, but until it actually affects your life personally, you never truly feel it; and we did and we do.
Late December 2021 we received the absolutely devastating news that our dear friend had left this world behind. He died of suicide, aged only forty. The loveliest, must unassuming, gentle soul. Our friend, who we love.
I can't even really begin to tell you how it feels, the sadness rocks you to the core, and it's not something you truly ever get over. You never do when you lose someone. You learn to cope through the memories you made with that person, we have lost loved ones before, however, there isn't a day that doesn't go by that we don't talk, think or reflect on our friend. Suicide leaves a different scenario, as the loss through suicide is of complex and traumatic grief, because of the death being sudden. You then try to develop a narrative that makes sense, but don’t really ever get there. I constantly ask questions in my head that will never be answered, you go back and forth with the whys and hows, but it doesn't change the reality.
The truth is suicide is devastating, not selfish, he did not leave this world to hurt or inflict pain on the people who love him, and we will never think otherwise. We love our friend, miss him always, and will continue to raise awareness on suicide and mental health in his honour, forever.
So please join us this month by reading this journal, sharing and liking our posts, and donating directly to the Movember cause through the links on our socials, or their website. You can also tell Paul how cool he looks with his Movember moustache, the mo grown for a bro, and you can even share some pics of your own efforts and tag us in! If you happen to purchase one of our ‘Dusty Trail’ garments that we created in honour of our friend, we also donate a portion of each sale to the Movember charity – and will continue to do so forever.
Remember, there is always help to be had. Don't suffer in silence, talk to someone whether a friend, a family member, or a therapist. Hell, hit me back and talk to me if you like, I’m here and our door is always open to you. Please don't think you need to be alone, there are so many great humans who are willing to help, so many great charities who will help, and the first step is recognising you are not alone.
So what is mental health?
Simply put by https://www.cdc.gov/
“Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”
Did you know that:
“Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling.” - Mind.org
The problem is that many find taking the first step to get help the hardest, but once you do you will never look back. There is no shame, and more often than not I myself have found that I can pinpoint exactly why I feel low at the time. Of late, it's been the stress brought on by finances; something that so many people are struggling with too, in an ever growing problematic world. Rising energy costs, rising food costs, Covid's long term financial impact, inflation and tax increases. For example, a growing proportion of the U.K population is having trouble making ends meet, and this is extremely stressful, and can be just one of so many reasons why your mental health becomes affected.
Identifying the why and how can really help, and having access to the right information is vital. This link from Mind.org is super informative and can really help you start the process of understanding different types of mental health, if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
So, how can we help ourselves thrive? Self-care is essential for our own well-being and mental health.
Here are just a few ideas that could help!
Get outdoors - Natural environments can help reduce stress. Walking, exercising or simply relaxing with fresh air offers mental and physical help benefits.
Get some you time - Treat yourself to a new book, you can find so many at local charities, book swaps or borrow a book from a friend or family member and pencil in some time for you to relax with no distractions. Alternatively, listen to a new podcast, watch a tv series, an old film, do some gaming, sports, whatever is your favourite, do it, unapologetically and with yourself in mind.
An at home spa day - This goes for both the men & women! Run yourself that bubble bath, light those aromatherapy candles, meditate, practice yoga, put that face mask on, go to bed early. Relaxing your mind and body will help you reap the benefits of general well being.
Connect with family & friends - Some of the best times I ever had have been when I haven't felt like having them, ha-ha! Yep, that dragging your heels feeling to go out somewhere; we’ve all had it, and not feeling like you particularly want to go, or feel too tired to go, but nevertheless going and winding up having an amazing time. Try not to make excuses to not meet up with friends or family, instead make the effort and enjoy your time with them, they may be just what you need.
Plan something new - be spontaneous! Go paddle-boarding, kayaking, join a hike, sign up for a pottery class, swim in an open water club, or take those swimming lessons that you have put off for ages. Hop on a train and go explore somewhere new, make a packed lunch and eat it in a open field surrounded by trees and nature, pick up a second hand instrument and teach yourself how to play, volunteer at your local animal shelter; adopt an animal companion along the way ha-ha-ha! The list of new things to try is endless, and all of which are great antidotes for monotony.
For the end of this article let me pass you over to Paul, as mental health of course concerns everyone, Movember is a charity that focusses on men’s health specifically.
Growing a mo is a great way to get a conversation started that could ultimately raise awareness and lead to donations for the Movember cause. ‘Grow A Mo For A Bro’ is something I aim to do every year, although the mo is getting a little greyer with each passing year!
I myself am a fairly quiet person; especially when compared to the rest of my family ha-ha! But, at times I have also felt the pain of loss, lack of motivation, lost in my direction and purpose, and what could only be described as bouts of depression. But even as a fairly quiet person, I understand the need to talk, and the true importance of it and how it could just change someone’s life for the better. Simply put, it’s important to just be a man of more words.
If I can do anything to help the cause of Movember, and others like it I will, and growing a mo is just a small thing us guys can do that could help save a bro’s life.
JRH will always endeavour to spread the message of mental health awareness, as everyone has the right to thrive and feel ok.
We have listed some great resources to help anyone to explore the subject.
We have a collection on our website called Dusty Trails, which is in honour of our dear friend we lost so early. For every item purchased in this collection, we donate a portion of the sale directly to the Movember men's health charity. You can view the collection here.
If you would like to donate directly to Movember, please see the donation campaign we currently have running on both our Instagram and Facebook channels.
Let us finish with this quote that we feel says it all!
"There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to love, Believe, Do and mostly Live"
- Dalai Lama
Love and hugs from Sian & Paul – JRH
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