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My Mental Health Journey

Updated: May 24

This blog is written by Lewis Dixon, UWLSU’s VP of Activities.


Mental health is something very close to my heart. I want to use my platform in any way I can, to raise awareness for men’s mental health. In this blog I will talk about my own experience with mental health problems to hopefully help towards decreasing the stigma and maybe give someone some information that might help them or help them to help others.

TW: The following content talks about mental health and suicidal thoughts. If you choose to read on, thank you for taking the time to do so. If the themes discussed might be too heavy for you, please feel free to click off now – there are plenty of ways to support mental health awareness, inside and outside of UWLSU.


1 man a minute - 60 men an hour - 1,200 men a day - 47,000 men a month - 560,000 men a year. 3 out of 4 suicides in the UK are by men. The numbers are true. The highest killer in men under 50 is also the least talked about between men.


This is a stigma we have to break to enable people to reach out for the help they need and deserve. Here’s my story and how I managed to get to where I am today:


Struggling with your mental health can feel like a problem you can’t solve and something that can’t just be wished away. I know this all too well, but I also know how manageable it be when you find the courage to speak out. It can seem daunting and can often be described as ‘unmanly’ to feel depressed or anxious, and it made me feel like I was locked in a cage. Men suppress emotion due to the social ‘norms’ we think we are tied to; being the provider, doing things described as ‘manly’ things such as sport or non-feminine dominant activity, the way we dress, being exposed to ‘banter’… the list goes on and on. Holding everything in for so long means that it will build up and up until it explodes.


I felt like I was alone with my thoughts all the time and the anxiety around talking to someone continued to grow. I was terrified of being judged and just being ignored. It got to the point where I would do anything to escape or just not feel that way anymore and I struggled massively with suicidal thoughts. Having such a huge weight on you at all times also forces you to cope in any way you can think of, especially when you don’t know how else to deal with things other than unhealthily.


Eventually I broke down to a friend who really encouraged me to seek professional help, and I took their advice. It turns out, that I’d been suffering with depression for a lot longer than I realised and it was not normal. Next, was the journey to finding what would help me. It may seem daunting to start the road to recovery, but it's within hands reach for everyone; all you must do is grab it. I have since been happier than I have ever been and having that transparency with my friends has helped me be a better person and give them the ability to speak up about their mental health to me.


The biggest thing that has helped me is speaking up, sharing your problems means they aren’t just living in your head anymore. The people close to me helped me purely by listening. Family and friends really were the influence in me getting help and enabling me to feel comfortable speaking about my problems. They would always check in on me to see how I was doing, and they would always reassure me that they were always there for me and could chat to them if I needed to. That feeling of having support system around me, one that really cared, gave me strength and comfort to start my journey. They have helped me every step of the way, just by being there to listen.


I have also taken up triathlon, my new passion. The progress and drive give me a huge sense of achievement and has been something I have committed to and – most importantly – enjoy. The serotonin training gives me is incredible; I can’t stress the importance of it enough.


Thank you so much for reading about my story and mental health journey so far. Everyone has mental health, and mental health issues are something to work on and manage – the road isn’t over for me, and I will continue to learn and grow with my mind.


I have learnt some important lessons surrounding these issues, including signs and symptoms to look out for in yourself and others, and what to do if you think your friend is struggling. Here’s something I found helpful when approaching someone you think is struggling:


Remember ALEC


Ask

Start by asking your friend how they’re feeling. It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve picked up on. Maybe they’re spending more time at the bar, has gone quiet in the group chat, or isn’t turning up to social events. Whatever it is, they’re just not themselves.

Use a prompt like,

"You haven’t seemed yourself lately – are you feeling OK?"

Trust your instinct. Remember, people often say "I'm fine" when they’re not, so don't be afraid to ask twice.

You can use something specific you’ve noticed, like,

"It’s just that you haven’t been replying to my texts, and that’s not like you."

Listen

Give them your full attention. Let them know you’re hearing what they’re saying and you’re not judging. You don’t have to diagnose problems or offer solutions, but asking questions lets someone know you’re listening. You can ask a question like:

"That can't be easy – how long have you felt this way?"

Encourage Action

Help them focus on simple things that might improve how they feel. Are they getting enough sleep? Are they exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped them in the past – it’s worth asking.

Suggest that they share how they’re feeling with others they trust. This will make things easier for both of you. And if they’ve felt low for more than two weeks, suggest chatting to a doctor.

Check In

Suggest you catch up soon – in person if you can. If you can’t manage a meet-up, make time for a call, or drop them a message. This helps to show that you care; plus, you’ll get a feel for whether they are feeling any better.

A huge thanks to R U OK? for developing the ALEC model.

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