Role models can provide hope for the future
With more schools and universities around the world opening up the conversation about mental health in childhood and early adulthood, and through understanding the challenges their fathers, uncles and older brothers may have encountered, today’s men can act as role models for the men of the future.
In the UK, Prince William recently spoke about mental health with footballers Danny Rose, Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry, Jermaine Jenas, and England coach, Gareth Southgate. The hope is that through football, men will start to feel able to talk about their mental health and remove some of the stigma that still exists. Southgate spoke about how football has a ‘culture of not opening up about anything without being seen as weak – but that’s the key, it isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.’
Getting the conversation started
So, where do you start? Starting a conversation about mental health can be tricky, especially if the person you're worried about isn't close by, but it can also be life-saving. Whether you’re concerned about someone else or are having difficulties yourself, we’ve put together some ideas that might be useful when beginning the conversation with a friend, family member or colleague.
- Even if the conversation seems light-hearted, when someone you’re worried about mentions their feelings, just double check if there’s anything more they want to talk about. Try to match the tone of the conversation so that it doesn’t begin to feel intimidating. And if you can’t have the conversation in person because you’re in different countries or cities, try using real-time digital communications such as video chats, which may help you pick up on visual signs of concern and show you’re actively listening.
- Keep a mental note of how they tell you they’re feeling – if they regularly mention that they’re stressed or tired, ask if there’s anything going on that’s making them feel that way.
- If someone seems highly strung, or ready to snap, ask what’s really getting to them – anger and frustration are behaviours we often use to vent emotional feelings.
- It’s an automatic response to say we’re feeling fine, but if you know someone isn’t, then gently ask them again. They might not feel ready to talk, so let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready.
- Talking about mental health problems can be exhausting, for both of you. It might help to allocate some time specifically for the conversation, so that the person you’re worried about can prepare for it and know that the conversation will last a certain amount of time.
- Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can do is just to listen. It’s important that you don’t take on the problems and stresses from other people. It’s nice to be there for friends and family when they need you, but it’s important that you take time to look after yourself, too.
If you or someone you care about is struggling, there are plenty of helpful resources online. Health at Hand is a confidential health information helpline available 24/7 to our customers and their family. Experienced counsellors are on hand at any time to put your mind at ease – so you’re not worrying a moment longer than you need to. If you’re an AXA – Global Healthcare customer and would like to know more about how to use this service, you can read more here.
Staying in touch with our mental health is just as important as our physical health. We recommend mentioning it at a health check even if you feel fine. This will help you create a habit of talking about your mental health while also helping you keep track of how you’re feeling.