This month is Movember, a month dedicated to raising awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide. Movember is synonymous with the growing of a moustache, whether you do or don’t sport a moustache we invite you to get involved in the conversation around men’s mental health and wellbeing.
This Movember, we were able to talk with Tony Dikan, KeepingWellNEL Clinical lead, and ask him some questions about men’s mental health and wellbeing. Read what he had to say below:
What does mental health mean to you as a man?
I think that’s a really interesting question because I’m not sure cis-gender boys and men are always brought up and encouraged to think of themselves as having specific, gender-related, needs in the same that women, non-binary, gender fluid and trans people might be.
When I ran into problems with my wellbeing in my 20s and 30s it was probably due to issues that could have affected anyone. But being brought up male possibly made me more reluctant to acknowledge that I was having difficulties and less likely to have the support of friendships that involved discussing intimate feelings. Plus, possibly issues of class made it less likely to seek professional support initially – certainly no-one from my peer group had spoken with a therapist. And I had little idea that it was possible or even desirable to speak to someone else about being unhappy or struggling.
Fortunately, I found a way to reach out and seek help and despite several false starts with well-meaning, female therapists I finally found a male therapist that I could work with. I have no way of knowing for sure if working with a male therapist was what clinched it, but it allowed me to tackle issues that I hadn’t even realised needed resolving. In the end the experience was so worthwhile that it made me want to change career and retrain as a therapist which is what eventually did.
Why it is important to remove the stigma around men’s mental health?
I certainly experienced a lot of shame and embarrassment about seeking help. Even when I retrained as a therapist, I would still feel reluctant to talk about my own experience of being a client years earlier.
Society seems to get more used to discussions around mental health with each passing year but as a therapist I know that there are still significantly fewer male clients and significantly fewer male therapists (especially from working class or marginalised backgrounds).
This is even more pronounced if we consider the different sections of our community and the additional stigma that individuals with mental health difficulties can face within their community.
Ultimately this leads to more hidden misery for men, more reliance on drugs and alcohol, reckless behaviour, estrangement from families and children, exposure to violent assault, likelihood of prison and in the worst-case death by suicide.
What do you find helpful when looking after your own wellbeing?
Remembering to: let other people know how I am feeling (sometimes they’re receptive and sometimes they are wrapped up in their own stuff and I may need to try several times); Park Run; trying to make sure that I meet up with some friends every so often to talk ‘nonsense’, BBC 6 music; Otto and Ziggy (our ‘lock down’ cats); having a family holiday to look forward to (and knowing the reality will probably fall short of the dream but that’s ok) but most of all my mindfulness practise allows me to step back at least once a day and see the bigger picture. I am a qualified mindfulness coach and am pleased to be able to run regular sessions to support health and care colleagues across north east London.
Try mindfulness for yourself. Join Tony for regular mindfulness sessions – click here to register or to find out more information.