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Me, my friends and mental health

Reporter Michael share what he's learned about mental health

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed in conversations with my guy friends, is how much we now openly discuss our mental health. The whole message of ‘Time to talk’ seems to be working. And this is what I’ve learned in the last 12 months. By Michael Delaney.

In the spirit of openness, the last year has been pretty transformative for my mental health. And would credit the people that have taken the time to speak with me over the last few months for helping me overcome the worst of it.

I expect, and hope, that many of you will know these tidbits of wisdom, but it never hurts to reiterate the basics. As another Mental Health Awareness week washes over a country in crisis, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months with you.

Lesson 1. Be honest with everyone, especially yourself.

When I sat down to talk with my friends, and we’d talk about what was bothering them, we’d sometimes find ourselves talking about someone else or work.

I’d hear people check themselves and justify situations they weren’t ultimately happy with. But it was easier than admitting to themselves they’d like to change something, or speak to someone about something that was making them unhappy.

Starting with yourself, it’s important to know what honestly makes you happy and unhappy. The truth will always come out eventually; be up front in the first instance with yourself and the people you care about.

Lesson 2. Asking for help is hard.

I think most of us are guilty of forcing the perspective on our own problems and saying ‘they’re not as bad as other people’s’.

Even if this was true, you don’t want them getting any worse. Yet, many of us wait until a crisis point before we reach out for help. For some this is too late.

If you recognise you are struggling, ask for help. From friends, family or even your GP. The sooner the better.

Lesson 3. Stop feeling guilty.

I’ve found myself doing things for others to avoid upsetting them. Usually, this has been me assuming it would upset them. If I actually talked to them, I would realise that I am putting that pressure on myself.

And I think that’s true for a lot of us. We feel the pressure to work harder, achieve more, and feel guilty when we take time for ourselves.

Self care is an essential, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking it. If anything, it means you’ll have the strength to help others when they need you.

Lesson 4. Be sad rather than numb.

A friend of mine talked about feeling numb for such a long period of time – I could relate.

I was putting off feeling sad for such a long time, because it was a ‘bad’ feeling, that I’d essentially conditioned myself to feel numb. And the problem with stopping myself feeling sad, meant I was also stopping myself from feeling genuinely happy.

I think this is a tough one for guys, because sadness is still seen as a weakness by some. These days I see it as quite the opposite – if you have the strength to allow yourself to feel sad, you’ll be more resilient because of it.

What lessons would you share with people about mental health?

This can include advice you’ve received, strategies that work for you or for friends, and experiences that have helped you grow.