Check in, before they check out: It’s time we shake up the way we deal with mental health in male dominated spaces
For too long, men have been more than happy to sit behind a mask and keep a brave face.
This mentality has seen us lose more people than we wish to talk about to their own battles with mental health, to the point that they saw no other option than to leave us prematurely.
With this attitude, we have created a level of masculinity that has become toxic, and even when other genders work within our dominated space, they are expected to play by our rules to gain acceptance or risk becoming outsiders in their own workplace.
Tough Enough To Care is a mental health charity that I set up after losing two close friends to suicide within days of each other. Both friends, like myself, are products of male-dominated spaces and sadly, help was not available when they needed it most.
This is why Tough Enough To Care are passionate to shake up the way mental health is viewed and discussed in male-dominated spaces. It took me losing two friends to suicide for me to realise that I was part of the problem and not the solution…
How do we know when someone is struggling and what can we do?
The truth is, there won’t always be signs to spot as we, as humans, are very good at masking our emotions. But some common warning signs that someone is struggling with their mental health can be:
- Becoming withdrawn and using words such as hopeless, worthless, useless – Everyone has a bad days and some turn into weeks. But withdrawing is not great, as we enter our own echo chamber of thoughts which almost always turns in to negativity towards ourselves. Encourage people to talk – not force, but encourage. Ask them open-ended questions about their day, how they feel and what plans they might have to look forward to in the near and distant futures.
- Erratic shifts in mood with no explanation (easily irritated, agitated, or unsettled) – We ALL have mood swings, it’s human nature to have varying moods and emotions, but if someone’s mood is shifting erratically with no explanation, we need to not punish the behaviour but look behind the actions and ask ‘why?’ What is causing this response, is it something that we could change or help to initiate change for this person to clear their mind fog.
- Joking about mental health or suicide – This one may seem a little odd but here’s the thing, dark humour is allowed and is actually a very common coping mechanism which helps us to navigate rough times in our lives. We must use it wisely and not at the expense of others, whilst also being cautious to not belittle the feeling of those around us. However, we must all be mindful that men are rubbish at starting conversations, so what is perceived as just a flippant remark or ‘banter’ may actually be someone trying to put the conversation on the table as a starter to gauge the response. So next time someone throws out a joke, be sure to look beyond the behaviour and question, ‘Are you ok?’
Check in, before they check out
For decades, wonderful and caring people have used phrases such as “My door is always open, I’m always here to talk.’ And whilst this is a very kind offer, many of us don’t have the confidence to down tools, walk across the shopfloor, ascend the creaky staircase and walk down the glass-doored corridor to the manager’s office for a chat. Whether it be an physical journey through these obstacles or a metaphorical journey before simply picking up a phone, these barriers are often too big to overcome for the first step to reaching out. Instead, check in on those we work with on a regular basis; weekly, fortnightly or monthly is up to you, but by making regular check-ins we build a relationship of trust, and let’s face it, we are only completely open and honest with people we trust. These check- ins do not have to be War and Peace: a simple ‘You don’t seem yourself recently, are you ok?’ or ‘Hey mate, just wanted to check in and see if you’re doing alright’ can be enough for someone to know that they don’t have to fight any battle on their own.
Responding to someone in crisis
Dealing with someone in crisis can be an overwhelming and scary situation. Simply approach the individual calmly, reassure them they are not alone and that you can help them through this situation. You don’t have to know all the answers, just give them space and time to talk, allow them to be open and honest without fear of judgement and where necessary, explain to them that you need to call for support, for their benefit and to get the correct support they require. Just being there for them is enough, you do not have to fix the issue as that is the role of the professional services.
We offer support, signposting and training for everyone.
Text TOUGH to 85258 for free, confidential support 24/7.
Or visit: https://toughenoughtocare.help/
Stu Bratt BCAh
Founder & CEO
Tough Enough To Care –
Supporting people, NOT labels