Men’s Health Week, 14th June – 20th June 2021, raises awareness of the health issues that affect men disproportionately and focuses on getting men to become more aware of health problems they may have or could develop and gain the courage to do something about it.
This year, Men’s Health Week shines the spotlight on men, mental health and Covid-19. The year that has turned everybody’s life upside down, a time of challenges and insecurities and its not over yet.
As we start to emerge from the pandemic, questions, concerns and anxieties don’t just go away. They remain, they shift and evolve.
I have written in the past about my own mental health experiences, which you can see here but I wanted to write something brief to share my experiences of mental health during the pandemic.
A SIGNIFICANT INCIDENT
During the pandemic, my mum suffered some serious mental health issues. These became worse despite treatment and resulted in hospitalisation. It is ongoing and improvements happen at a glacial pace.
This puts a lot of strain on my dad (and others), because of the uncertainty around the process, the pace and the myriad outcomes when supporting someone with their mental health. As it is Men’s Health Week, I am focusing this on my dad.
We have all heard of, or know, men of a ‘certain age’ who don’t really talk about their feelings. And I am watching my dad go through that right now and over the course of the last year. He does try to talk about things, but he doesn’t really have the language to get out what I suspect he is feeling.
I have asked him lots of questions and he sometimes gets frustrated at the questions, I think because he struggles to know how to answer them. But, the key has been to keep asking, and to think of different ways to ask the question sometimes using metaphors, similes and direct observations of real-life situations. As he is a deeply logical person when being rational, but quick to become irrational as he becomes frustrated, this works to a point, until he may feel I am patronising him (not my intention) or he will clam up and that will be the end of the conversation.
I set up some support for him, but had to explain that they won’t be able to call and simply say to my Dad, ‘I am calling to support you’, but will have to seamlessly enquire after him in the conversation in line with asking what is happening with my mums care, but regularly about my dad. However, this didn’t work, because Dad will bat away the ‘how are things going?’ questions with the classic ‘I’m doing fine’ platitudes and then reflect the conversation back to the other person – ‘how was your time off?’ type of stuff. They won’t push him too hard to talk and so this hasn’t been as effective as I hoped.
‘THE HOVER’ – SUPPORT CUE
I find you have to look for cues and seize upon them when they arise. For example, if dad DOES want to talk about something, he will linger a little. Hover, if you will! Some mundane chat can lead to proper discussion if you can spot the cues. We have had this a lot with men on our Gutless weight management programme over the years also. The hovering, leading to in depth chats that they really wanted to have but couldn’t quite come out straight away and say. Even one of our ex-colleagues and good friends, Ben Hardman, who ran Gutless, used to do ‘the hover’ when he wanted to talk about something!
This is not advice from a big mental health professional… it is a simple observation based on my recent first-hand experiences. Of course, this is not the generic response of ‘Man!’ It’s the response of my dad and we are all different. But, if you are supporting a man to talk about what or how they are feeling, then I am offering nothing here other than some very basic advice – keep trying in different ways to offer them an outlet; and support – you can only do the best you can, and you must look after yourself in whatever situation you find yourself in too.
Remember – if you spot ‘The Hover’, you might have a chance to help someone get something out they want to talk about but don’t quite know how!
We ARE in this together, so keep trying to talk to men, they are worth persevering with 😊
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