This week we’ve seen the latest high-profile sports star; Paddy Pimblett, AKA The Fifth Beatle, AKA Jay from The Inbetweeners when one of his lies was actually true, come out and give an impassioned post-fight speech about men needing to open up to people about their mental health. He’d just choked a guy out & ‘teabagged’ him, yet still had the wherewithal to get on a microphone & implore us all to seek help if we needed it. All very noble stuff. It goes without saying that it spread over social media like a Facebook Mothers’ account of a dodgy chippy does, and it was everywhere come Sunday afternoon. I’m not writing this to knock people for that, although sometimes it might sound like I am, because most of us are utterly full of shit on this subject, including me, but more you though.
I felt compelled to write this, as I am a man, and I am a miserable cunt who occasionally has days full of sadness wave over me. I don’t have depression, but I get depressed, and there’s a difference I think. However, I’m not going to pretend I can relate to men who have it way worse than I do & have serious, serious problems. I’m not necessarily talking from their point of view in this, I’m just going to give my account of why I think men who tend to struggle when life is getting them down don’t freely talk about it like people ask them to.
OK, that’s the serious part over.
Here is a list of reasons I don’t think men open up about their mental health struggles, and again, I know this is a touchy subject, so this is just my opinion, don’t get pissy with me. Some of these might be reasons that I myself have thought about when I’ve been sat in a dark room wailing at the moon, so you can’t tell me I’m wrong about these reasons, you wouldn’t want to be seen having a go at the little sad man, would you? No, you would not. So here we go.
You don’t want to be seen as weak.
This is the obvious one, isn’t it? Men have always been thought of as the providers, the protectors, the people who can go through anything & get things done. Society shaped us this way, so don’t you be blaming us here. With this being the narrative around men, it takes a lot to step outside of that, being around other men, and saying ‘actually, I can’t do this’. To a lot of men, it’s like admitting you can’t lift a certain weight, or win a certain game. It’s childish really, but we have inbuilt egos that make us competitive to the point we won’t admit that we can’t handle something. I don’t know why we think you can’t be masculine & sad at the same time, I don’t see how they have much to do with each other really, but that seems to be the main problem men won’t admit isn’t it? I think us blokes think that if you’re the first to say you’re struggling, somehow you’re the weakest, but I reckon once the first person admits that they’re feeling a certain way, a few of the other friends will be quick to say ‘thank fuck you said it, now I can admit to my shit as well!’. That first domino just needs to fall, but we don’t want to be the first one to risk it.
You don’t want to be the negative person in your friends & family.
So listen, nobody wants to be a drag. You don’t want to be the person that creates a negative atmosphere, or ‘brings the mood’ down. Even if the people around you don’t see it that way, you do. People may not mind talking to you about these problems, once, maybe twice, but after that, men might start to think that this is how they’re perceived now, this is what they are now known for among their friends & family. Nobody wants that, we all like to think of ourselves as having a positive impact on the people around us, but if we’re always talking about deep, dark stuff, soon enough we’ll be sure that we’re becoming tiresome energy for people. I’m not blaming anyone for making them think this, you may all be reading this and totally disagreeing, but I’m talking from the person who’s struggling point of view, not yours. From my own perspective, whether you agree with this or not, I see myself as the person who people gravitate towards for humour (when will you start doing some I can hear you ask? Fuck you), so if I start talking about my feelings, and serious stuff that will sit heavy, I’m no longer the person they came for. This friendship or whatever is based on me being funny, and if I’m not doing that then this isn’t what they signed up for is it? If we can see our Whatsapp group is all having a good time, and our family is running smoothly, nobody wants to be the person that upsets the apple cart. Nobody wants to be the person that walks into a party & says it’s time to wrap it up, do they?
You don’t want people acting strangely toward you.
As before, you don’t want to open up about this stuff you’re going through because you might fear that people will start treating you differently afterward. Once you’ve put it out there that you’re suicidal, or having an extreme crisis, even if you get over it, you think that label sticks with you forever then, and people will walk on eggshells around you, or change how they are around you. For example, most of our friendship groups are based on us taking the piss out of each other, it’s just how the British get along, but if we tell people that sometimes, we actually want to die, those friends are now going to think twice about bantering with you, or how they can joke with you, even to the point of baby’ing you. When I told people I had been going through a period of feeling low, people applauded me for admitting it to myself, but in the weeks afterward, if somebody did even the smallest of nice things for me, like passing me a pen, my mind would automatically go to ‘they’re doing that because they think today might be the day I’m killing myself, ain’t they?’ Now, who the fuck wants to live like that!? Certainly not me mate. Nobody treats us like that on purpose, they’re trying to be helpful & thoughtful if anything, but it happens, you don’t want to be seen as the ‘other’, so you don’t put yourself out there to be thought of in that way. In some cases, friends may not know how to, or may not want to deal with something so heavy, so they distance themselves altogether, and you’ve now lost a friend because of it…a shit friend mind, but a friend nonetheless.
Feeling guilty for putting it on to someone else.
A problem shared is a problem halved as the saying goes. In this case, a problem shared is a problem doubled. If I phone my mate & tell him that I’m having a breakdown and want to do something stupid, that problem is now his problem too. And it’s a huge problem to lump on to somebody ain’t it? My friend could be coasting through his own life just lovely, then I come along and say fuck all that, you need to be taking on my shit now & it’s on you to save me somehow. Would I want to do that? That person is now responsible for saving your life, that’s not fair to put on someone. That is a huge burden that not everyone is capable of shouldering. It seems a very selfish thing to do. However, it’s not selfish, and that’s what friends are for, but remember, I’m talking from the perspective of the guy who already feels shit about himself, and already isn’t thinking straight. He probably feels like the world is against him by this point anyway, why unload this pain onto somebody who doesn’t deserve it? These friends & family probably have their own stuff to deal with, why would I think I’m so special that I should have special treatment? Why should everyone have to cater to me? This is why guilt & not wanting to be seen as selfish stop people from making that phone call.
Waiting for it to pass.
If I’m feeling depressed and I then go tell my friends & family about it, and it turns out it was just a bad day & actually, I’m fine, do you know how much I would cringe afterward? Sometimes I need the attention so I put a thinly veiled joke about wanting to die on social media & wake up the next day now I actually want to die… of embarrassment. I’m now here having a good day, but everyone knows my innermost thoughts from when I was having a rough day of it. How embarrassing. They think that I’m always depressed & having these problems now, even when I’m fine. If every time we have a depressing episode we’re straight on the phone to someone, when we’re having a good day & we look back at what we said, it’s nothing but cringeworthy. So knowing all this, maybe we just don’t tell anyone because we’re thinking that it’ll pass, no need to raise the alarm each time, we’ll only regret it when we feel better, but that soon becomes never raising the alarm, which obviously leads to the issue of men never telling anyone. You don’t want the feeling of being the boy who cried wolf, so you just never tell anyone, even when the wolf actually arrives on your doorstep.
Most people can’t verbalise the problem.
We aren’t therapists, we don’t even know what’s going on in our head more often than not, so when the world is begging us to start talking, we don’t even know what it is we’re trying to say. You can get surface-level ideas out like ‘I just feel like shit’ or ‘not even handjobs make me happy anymore’ but they’re very vague problems (apart from the handjob one, maybe bounce it off someone’s lips to see if that helps instead). We don’t know why we’re struggling, sometimes there just isn’t a word to sum up the everlasting void that is sitting on our chest, so it’s not like we don’t want to tell you, sometimes we just don’t know what it is we have to tell you.
It will put off potential partners.
This one is if you’re single, if you’re in a loving relationship, you should be able to tell them anything. As it happens, I am single & ready to put the entirety of my happiness into the arms of a female. I know firsthand that if you’re trying to attract a partner, you don’t want to be seen to be mentally unstable. Why would a person who doesn’t know you want to be involved in something so heavy? You can’t blame them, they aren’t bad people for it, they just don’t think it’s wise. They might be a good person and listen to your troubles, but I’d imagine the friendzone will be following very shortly and now you’ve got one more reason to be depressed. Women stereotypically want to ‘fix’ men, so right here some of you are screaming that I’m wrong to say that, but what they don’t realise about wanting to be the one to ‘fix’ a man is it usually revolves around them being the one that stops him cheating. They never fix him, he just hides it better by the way. Don’t get me wrong here, a good woman will help you no end, they’re full of caring, sympathetic energy, but you have to get to that stage with them first. If I go on a first date & tell her that rather than getting on the train here, I considered jumping in front of it, I would bet my last pound that I wouldn’t get a second date, and you know it, ladies.
Not everyone is ready for the conversation to be had.
I mean no disrespect here, but when people say ‘my door is always open’ or ‘I’m always here, you can tell me’ …it makes me mad. I know they mean well, but 99% of the world isn’t qualified to listen, let alone help the person having a crisis. I get that the idea is the person has a safe place to unload all their issues, and that helps get things off their chest, I’m not saying don’t do that, what I’m saying is a lot of people going through it don’t think the rest of the world understands, so what the fuck can they tell them? Why would I sit & tell someone that I’m in serious mental pain if I don’t think I’m going to get any sense coming back from them? Everyone knows the cliches around mental health, which just get repeated endlessly, so for someone who needs help, they may think why bother talking to the people around them who aren’t going to tell them anything they haven’t heard before? Unless you’re lucky enough to have people around you who can form coherent ideas, the vast majority of the population will not come up with an original thought that can help you, so what is the point in telling them everything? It’s nobody’s fault that they aren’t equipt to handle these topics, don’t get me wrong here, therapists charge hundreds of pounds an hour for this shit, there’s probably a reason why. Deep psychological issues are complex & need working through, so the person going through it may look at everyone around them and think…they just aren’t ready to hear this from me.
Those are some of the reasons why I think people aren’t so comfortable speaking up, some are from firsthand experience, and some are just speculation. I’m not claiming to be an expert (for a change) or to have all the answers, it’s simply my opinion on the matter. Hopefully reading this might give people some clues as to go about approaching the subject with someone you might think is struggling, or maybe if it’s you that is struggling, maybe it will strike a chord & help you realise why you won’t speak up.
Men’s mental health subjects are coming to the light more often now, but there’s still a while to go I think. However, if you’ve got Tyson Fury, Paddy the Baddy, and now Joe Swallow on your side, it’s not a bad team to have with you.
Live long and prosper my friends.
Your good friend Josef