5 minutes read time.
Dr. David H. Demmer, Senior Clinical Psychologist
Men have a higher rate of suicide and are way less likely to reach out for support.
Opening up to your friends can help both you and them. The more comfortable we get with checking in on one another, the healthier we’ll all be.
“Watch the game?”
Does that conversation feel a little familiar? From the day we’re born men are bombarded with ideas on how to be a “real man”. You’re told to be tough, self-sufficient, and never share your feelings. But we’re going to make a bold statement here and say that’s all nonsense. And dangerous nonsense at that. The number of suicides among men is three times higher than in women and research shows that men are way less likely to seek professional help for mental health illnesses.
That’s why men need more support, more encouragement, and more chances to talk to each other.
We need to break down those stereotypes and make it totally normal for men to ask for help. We all want to be there for our friends, and they want to be there for us, so come on guys — it's time to talk about chatting.
Being vulnerable in front of your mates can be intimidating. Especially when, as men, one of our go-to methods of dealing with any kind of difficult emotion is to brush it off. But opening up to your mates is so important for a whole array of reasons.
Let’s all acknowledge how bloody difficult life is at the moment for everyone. Whether you’re a new dad juggling work and family, you’re living on your own in the middle of a pandemic, you're going through a job loss or you’re feeling totally and utterly burnt out — men have a lot to deal with.
The difficulty is that because we’re taught not to open up we pretend everything is ok. But everyone is doing the same thing.
This means that when we look around it feels like everyone else is fine and we're the only ones struggling to cope. By opening up and sharing what we’re going through, we’ll start to see that everyone struggles at some point. Once we know that, we can be there to help each other out.
Ok, so you’re determined to break down negative stereotypes around masculinity and start talking to your friends about more than whether Playstation or Xbox is better. But how do you actually go about having a serious conversation? (Not that Playstation vs Xbox isn’t a serious matter, but you know what we mean.)
It helps to avoid vague plans around catching up. Schedule in a time and maybe even catch up while doing something else. Studies have shown that men open up better when we’re “shoulder to shoulder” rather than facing one another. Think of all those chats you’ve had with your dad in the car or with your mates while playing Halo. Having something else to focus on while talking things out can really help and can take some of the pressure of the conversation off.
Ask open ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Encourage your friend to talk about what’s going on in their life and open up about your own struggles. Showing a little bit of vulnerability can really help others do the same.
It’s equally important to know when to just shut up and listen. It’s important to actively listen and to try to understand where your friend is coming from. Listen without judgement, pay attention to their body language, and get comfortable with staying quiet. It might be tempting to fill an awkward silence, but sometimes a gap in conversation can make all the difference.
When checking in with a friend, it’s important to acknowledge that you are not their psychologist. Don’t try to provide solutions and if you’re especially worried, suggest that they get professional help. If you think your friend might be suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues it can be helpful to understand the symptoms.
If your friend is dealing with depression you may notice the following:
Anxiety is another big one that often gets overlooked in men. But, of course, men get just as anxious as anybody else. If you’re worried that your friend may be suffering from anxiety look out for these symptoms:
Opening up to each other can be something men shy away from. But no one is helped by outdated ideas of the “tough silent type”. The more we talk to each other and the more we learn that it's ok to ask for help, the healthier we’re all going to be. So go forth and talk, chat, discuss, debate, converse and open up to each other. You never know, the right conversation might even save a guy’s life.