Mental health is a banner that until recently resided in murky waters. The concept was not openly spoken about and people often suffered in silence. With barriers to mental health being broken down, and with peoples’ awareness growing, we live in a time in which change is finally on the horizon…but regardless of how open celebrities are about mental health, and no matter how much we talk, there is still an engrained element of stigma surrounding the idea of not admitting you’re not ok. But why?
Being a father has stereotypically meant that you bare the weight of your family. You are the provider, the hunter gatherer and in short can show no weakness…or at least that’s what fatherhood was like. For me, things have changed a lot since say my dad had me or my grandad had children. Society has changed and so have the ways we have done things, so why is it so hard to change our views on something so paramount to so many lives. “Man up” and “sort yourself out” are still batted around when men speak to one another about issues and it’s ironic really because a lot of us feel the same pressures. Money, time, love, not enough of it all, too much of it all – regardless, I feel like sometimes men aren’t sympathetic enough to other men because of our somewhat innate reaction to perceived weakness.
A dad’s work is never done. Becoming a father is a tough transition and I for one will whole heartedly admit that from the second my boy decided he was coming into the world, I have been on the back foot. Life has a funny way of both slipping away and yet at times feeling like it’s standing still. Fatherhood is both the best and hardest adventure I’ve had and I feel like I have never and may never get the balance right. That upsets me sometimes, but I’ve found that what makes it better is talking about it. With my wife, with my pals, with the baby (great at listening unless there’s a train or bus close by) and even talking to myself.
A lot is said about the negative impacts of social media, but one thing often underestimated is the power it holds to disseminate positive messages. Seeing and hearing others opening up is hugely powerful for individuals and the more we see barriers being broken down, the more likely we are to address our own issues. I’m not talking about the moodily lit, staged posts near a darkened window that have been written for likes and comments, I’m talking about the work of people like Jamie Day. Jamie is so open about mental health and I asked him about his experience of social media and mental health. He said: “When I first opened up about my mental health on Instagram, I was met with nothing but support. It moved me. I’m a big believer in talking and getting things out of your head, whether that’s to your partner, a GP, or just a WhatsApp to your mate… Instagram has become another place for such honesty.”
Interestingly Jamie also said: “I sometimes feel more comfortable opening up to strangers online than I do friends I’ve known for twenty years. A few months after I went public with my struggles, I launched my men’s mental health podcast, Man Talk. I thought that with the power of social media to spread the word, I could reach men, who like me, were suffering. All I wanted to do was show that it’s good to talk, and it can be completely normal for us men to open up about mental health.” The Man Talk podcast breaks down the barriers around mental health and shows dads that other dads feel too.
It’s time to make it ok to say you’re not ok. Without being too cliché, a problem shared is a problem halved (ok that was clichéd) and talking can do you more good than you realise. Don’t suffer in silence and if someone tells you to “man up”, reconsider the company you keep.
Catch up with Jamie on Instagram @adayinthelife of dad and check out #mantalk