Earlier this year a close friend came to me and started to discuss his mental health. This was pretty out of the ordinary: we typically discuss work, business, ambitions and where we’re going out. I’ve always been aware of my own mental health, having a strong understanding can help me understand my own capacity and what I can give to my employers, family and communities. My friend’s conversation helped me realise that being conscious of my mental health meant that I had to conscious of those around me too.
It was a big deal for him to open up and say “yeah, I’ve got depression and I’m seeing a psychologist at least every fortnight”. In the months prior I had started seeing less of him and generally felt that his energy levels were low. He was not the man I had known.
It started making me very reflective: who was there for me when I was down? Or were these battles I had to struggle through myself? I realised that it actually didn’t matter so much who I turned to, as long it was someone I could trust.
Mental health is an issue at both ends of the age spectrum: depression is the leading cause of death for Gen Y men, and there are a growing number of Baby Boomers being treated for depression or anxiety. The root-causes might be different, but the impacts on our social and professional lives are the same: it can be underperformance or general unhappiness.
This is an intergenerational crisis that is making a big impact. Mental health costs the US economy US $57.5 billion each year, similar to the cost of cancer, and in Australia it is A$20 billion with 45% of all Australian’s between 16 and 85 suffering from anxiety, mood or a substance disorder.
We all know men can have issues with discussing these issues and feelings, but it’s about being there for each other. The onus isn’t always going to be on the one suffering, but on the man standing beside him. We all have a part to play when we realise that all is not well.
Men need to be able to stand up and be a strong voice in these discussions. Not just for ourselves ourselves—it will help how our children look at mental illness.
It isn’t about calling out weaknesses or issues with someone, but about being there for those in need. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask, or hear the answer, when we ask those closest to us, “how are you? Is everything alright?”
Originally published on Goodmenproject.com