Breaking the stigma around men's mental health
With effective interventions in perinatal care
Errol Murray is the Trust’s Perinatal Partners Peer Support Lead, working out of Leeds Perinatal Mental Health Service at The Mount, in Leeds. He is the link that has allowed the men he supports to have a voice in the blogs you have been reading during Men’s Health Awareness Month.
Here he explains how the service works to support men in an area you might be forgiven for thinking has a clear primary focus on women.
So, Errol, what specific role do you have within perinatal care?
“When mums have mental health issues caused by pregnancy or childbirth, I support the partners of the mums in our care, support that mainly takes the shape of group sessions.
“Some are face to face with a clinician on a theme, and some group sessions are games nights, to help build peer support. We also run Dads/Partners and Babies’ Sensory Play, where dads get to spend time 1-1 with their babies and learn more about attachment and bonding with their child.”
Is the LYPFT service unusual in providing this type of support to men?
“There are just a handful of Perinatal Partner Peer Support Services in the UK. So, the service we provide in Leeds is unique in terms of helping partners and dads to understand and recover from the challenge that perinatal mental health brings to their families.
“As well as helping the partners to support the mums, research shows that it’s 2:1 that partners may experience feeling anxious or being down at this time.
“So, it’s important to support these families, especially as they may have the responsibility of a newborn baby at the same time.”
What do you hope to achieve in your work and through publishing these blogs?
“The Mental Health Foundation says, ‘Men are three times LESS likely to access psychological support than women.’
Through November, Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month helps address mental health issues experienced by men, and challenges taboos around discussing them.
We hope that sharing these dads’ stories can give the dads a moment to reflect and understand their own situation and help to reduce the stigma around men’s mental health by sharing their stories with others”.
Below are the final blogs in our series. You can read the first blog on this page.
Henry, his wife and their two kids live in Arthursdale, for him, dealing with his mental health is all about being the best father he can be.
“My mind created a library in my younger years that was designed to protect myself through abuse, betrayal, and isolation. But later in life it turned sinister and was my prison instead.
“When I was younger, thinking of eight good things to overpower one bad thought was a simple task. As a child you’re supposed to have an innocence to the world. Unknowing of the hardships to be faced as you grow older. That innocence was stolen from me and it darkened my safe haven into a prison of negativity, unable to focus on one good while eight bad circulated my head. It was this loss that set-in motion my path of negativity even in the childhood years of light.
“The problem lies in how easily we let outside forces cause conflict within. Keeping a calm stress-free life is never an easy task. It’s important to talk about the things we feel are weighing us down. The hardships that we can’t win alone.
“Bringing peace to your chaotic mind is key to being a better version of yourself.
“Being a better you. A better partner. A better father. A better friend.
“The most important one to me is being a father. I have two children. The experiences of both vastly differ from their years of being in my life. Finding the group of dads that I could just talk to allowed me to develop, learn and adapt new coping methods. New ways to engage with my child.
“That completely changed the way I acted. And I learnt one of the most valuable lessons after all these years. Something so simple and so basic. Love yourself. I’m not saying make out with yourself in a mirror, I’m saying do things for yourself, not for others.
“Find a hobby, an outlet that allows you to creatively, safely release those pent-up emotions of negativity. You don’t need to run a marathon. It’s so easy to get swallowed up by our own negativity when we stop taking care of the one thing that matters. Ourselves.
“Help others if you can, be there if needed but always remember that you come first. Because if you break, how can you hold anything else up.
“I’m slowly getting my identity back. That which makes myself me. Some days you will lose. Some you will win. But always celebrate the little victories and be strong enough to stand back in order to take a step forward.”
Tingley is where Thomas lives, he knows all about suppressing feelings – and the damage it can do.
“As a society, we are becoming more open to the idea of mental health, mental wellbeing and mental illnesses – whether this has been through the news reporting on those that have been deeply troubled, or because more people within your own circle are being more open.
“That said, there is still serious stigma attributed to our illnesses. As a man it is felt that there is even more pressure associated…”to be ok”.
“I found that my mental health suffered following a traumatic event. In dealing with that, I pushed away close friends and hid things from family to prevent talking about them.
“This has now formed tough barriers that I need to break down.
“I received immediate support at the time of the event to help process thoughts and feelings but being thrown into a world of unknown, it was more about getting through day-by-day and shutting out the outside world.
“My own mental health has shown me that trying to suppress feelings and not share my own thoughts and feelings creates greater problems. It has only been recently, through Perinatal Partner Peer Support that my eyes have been opened to how important mutual communication is and to share how you are feeling: no differently to if you had a physical illness or injury.
“It’s important to talk to those that I care about because you do not realise the impact that you are potentially causing to them and their own mental wellbeing. I thought I was the ‘master of disguise’ but it turns out that I hurt others more by not being willing to share. Those meant to be on my team felt pushed aside.
“Being involved in the Leeds Perinatal Partner Support groups has provided a space to be completely open and talk. It allows you to step away, reflect and share thoughts. I have taken away from it that it is also ok to put yourself first from time to time.
“I have reconnected to sport and attending football matches with my family and even turned my hand to baking.
“The only trouble is that my waistline will be the next thing I will need to watch!”
All the men’s voices in these blogs have been protected to guard them against prejudice.