Blog: Men, are you looking after yourselves?
Content warning: this post mentions suicide and self-harm statistics
Written by Student Content Shaper Alex Masters
‘Movember’ (an annual charity event where men are encouraged to grow a moustache to raise funds and awareness of men’s health issues) has officially begun, and so it seems only right to kick off the conversation surrounding men’s mental health.
Statistics show that over a third of all men believe that they’ve had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, yet as many as forty percent refuse to discuss it with close friends or family, and that number significantly increases when asked about seeking professional help. Just under a half of all men said it would take thoughts of suicide or self-harm to compel them to seek help.
Whether you’re affected by your studies, work, distance from home, or life in general, know there’s no shame in speaking up about how you’re feeling and that there’s always support available to you.
It's up to us to break the negative stigma that surrounds men's mental health and issues that affect us all – by looking after ourselves and each other. There are a variety of ways you can care for your mental health, especially at university.
Join and attend social groups
There are hundreds of societies and clubs that are looking for members and would be more than happy to welcome you into the fold. Not only can you meet like-minded people, but they provide a chance to have some fun and de-stress. Spending time with course mates, flatmates, or any friend is also a fantastic way to boost your mental health and wellbeing. I’m part of UoB Boxing, and I’ve found no better way to de-stress than a session at the club.
Stay physically active
Physical exercise releases feel-good chemicals and makes things like sleep and relaxation far easier. This is always one of the first things professionals recommend, so don’t wait! Once again, there are so many sports groups and societies out there, but even if they’re not to your taste, there are other ways to get active such as joining a gym, using a bike to get around, or even just walking.
Get a good amount of sleep
As much as it pains me to admit it, this is one of the most important factors in your wellbeing, and its knock-on effect on your mental health can be huge if you don’t allow yourself to get a good amount of (high-quality) sleep. This usually means at least seven hours, so try to stay away from your phone, console, or other sources of stimulation before bed, try and cut out caffeine after four p.m., and don’t eat for roughly an hour before you go to sleep.
Get it off your chest
Of course, it’s not always easy to break down some of the strains that life can put on your mental health, especially at university – it’s easy to become swamped in work, studies, and your social life. Talking to a professional is always a brilliant course of action if you’re feeling unwell. UoB offers a range of free and confidential services for all students, from mental health to addiction support.
The full range of services are available on the Time to Talk page, but below I’ve picked out ones to note:
- UB Heard: Whatever you’re going through, UB Heard offers a safe space for you to talk anytime either through a live chat or by calling on 0800 368 5819(UK) or 00353 1 518 0277 (International). This is available for all students, including postgraduates.
- Wellbeing Officers: Every school has their own Wellbeing Officers who can provide practical and emotional support if you’re struggling. If you need more help, they can refer you to professional counselling sessions.
- Urgent Support: If you’re experiencing a crisis with your mental health and don’t think you can keep yourself safe, it’s important you seek help straight away. You can go to your local A&E (Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham) or call 999. You can also access the local NHS Urgent Mental Health helpline, where you’ll find twenty-four hour support and advice.
- Support for men: There are also a range of other services outside of the University that offer free and confidential support for men. A great resource is CALM, a registered charity that runs a 24/7 helpline for those struggling or in a mental health crisis. Another fantastic option is Andy’s Man Club, which offers free peer-to-peer support groups in person or and online.
If you’re reading this, it’s absolutely okay to not be okay. Life can be incredibly overwhelming at times, but you don’t have to shoulder that on your own. Speak up and seek support – your life matters.