Setting men free from poor mental health
The first of our blogs on men's mental health during Men's Health Awareness Month
As part of Men’s Health Awareness Month, we are featuring a number of blogs written by partners of mothers or mothers to be that are accessing our Perinatal Mental Health services based at The Mount.
You could be forgiven for being confused as to how there is a connection. The simple answer is the Perinatal Partners Mental Health Service, which supports men who support their partners. Facilitated by Errol Murray, the service is one of only a few in the country attached to perinatal mental health centres in England.
The need to support the partners in supporting their partners’ mental health revealed an undeniable reality that these men also needed care and support in dealing with their own mental health challenges. Sometimes these were long-established and buried, sometimes they manifested themselves as a result of specific incidents, but in each case, the strains of supporting their partners exposed fissures in their own mental health that need their very own attention, care and support.
Through the engagement they have with other partners, the men get to explore, reflect on and express their feelings. In the blogs we are featuring you will hear those reflections, spoken by men who have chosen to remain anonymous, because being brave enough to voice your pain is one thing, exposing yourself and your partner to potential abuse and discrimination in the community because your mental health is not perfect is a totally different matter. We have given our men imaginary names and locations – but they could live next door to you or anywhere else for that matter.
Roy from Rothwell has one piece of advice for any man struggling with poor mental health you – Say Your Thoughts Out Loud
“My mental health, as well as being incredibly important to me, is also essential in helping me perform at a high level in my home and work life.
“When my mental health is strong, it energises me and allows me to be at my best to support my wife and son. In my position at work, problem solving and critical thinking are essential skills.
Without my mental health being strong I find my mind wandering and thoughts clouded.
“I find that putting my headphones on and getting out for a walk every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, provides me space to clear my head. I view it as an effective way of staying on top of my mental wellbeing. I like a routine, so if I know I’m having a 30-minute walk on my lunch break it gives me something in the day to look forward to.
“Being able to talk to someone about my mental health and sharing experiences with other dads has been a great help to me, I think saying your thoughts out loud and getting advice and feedback gives you validation that what you’re experiencing is normal and you’re not alone.”
Albert lives with his partner in Armley, here he reflects on the impact of toxic masculinity.
“I grew up in a very strong patriarchal environment, highly criticised by my father.
I always felt his strong presence and felt loved; however, his mannerisms were more toward critiques rather than praise. Thus, I grew up having him constantly telling me what to do, without giving much space to my own thoughts, and this developed into an insecure childhood.
“After my teenage years I started going out with my friends and became much more independent. Thanks to that I overcame these insecurities. However these feelings still gravitate below me, and like the point of the iceberg they sometimes come out.
“I met my fiancée, who has mental health needs and we had a baby together. These first months haven’t been easy at all, and I’ve had to look for support. I really wanted this baby and sought solutions that are not easy to find.
“The Perinatal Partners Mental Health Service for dads gave me the possibility to share my thoughts with other fathers experiencing difficult moments. I always feel better after every meeting because I realise that I am not the only one having issues.
“The fact that fathers are seen as the strength of the family, as the ones that cannot share problems is a patriarchal mentality that we all need to challenge nowadays. I just want to be a great father and I thank the PMH Service for supporting me during difficult times.”
Frederick hails from Farsley, he says you can’t always burden your family, but you can find someone to talk with.
“As a man who has struggled with mental health / anxiety from 2020, I first went to counselling not expecting it to help. But that was my first step in realising it’s ok to ask for support.
“I’ve also found that one size doesn’t fit for all, as we all respond differently and need to use alternative techniques. I still feel and notice my triggers, as I get frustrated more easily now, so have learnt what methods best help me depending upon the scenario; which I wouldn’t have learnt without the support I have received.
“I do feel as though help is now more readily available to support men’s mental health.
It is now far more widely talked about, whether that be at work or in the news. There is still a stigma attached and a lot of people still brush it off and ignore the symptoms or deny having any mental health struggles.
“You can’t always burden your partner and friends, so it is great to have support such as counselling or perinatal support as it is a great platform to talk about how you feel and your situation.
You also learn you aren’t alone, with many others going through similar circumstances.
“I’m also lucky that the support offered is so local, as some members of the group have to travel a significant distance.
“And the odd holiday always helps!”