How many times has a conversation with a buddy started like this? How many times is the advice you give, “You should really get that checked out”? Speaking personally, I know I’ve been given that advice many times and then proceeded to ignore it completely.
Studies have shown that men think denying weakness and rejecting help is a sign of masculinity. I can recall incidents where my wife, out of genuine concern, would point out a cut or injury and ask me, “Why are you bleeding?” to which I would respond, proudly, “I don’t know.” The silliness of that approach might be apparent, but it doesn’t stop us from capitalizing on the opportunity to show how “manly” we are. However, that approach does stop us from getting assistance before it becomes a crisis or before it has significantly affected our quality of life.
I’m not speaking solely about medical issues either. We do this with our mental wellness, too. Not only do we put ourselves through more stress when we don’t get help on board early on, we potentially miss out on putting some protective factors in place that might save us lots of trouble in the long run. Maybe it’s an undiagnosed thyroid problem that is causing the lack of energy and the fluctuation in weight. Maybe taking a look at lifestyle balance and adding some exercise or dedicated social time might make all the difference. The research shows that, when it comes to mental health, the earlier we get some assistance, the better the outcomes are (and the less time we end up spending sick).
There are a number of things you can do now that could help if you feel that something isn’t right. You can try self-help from reliable places like Here to Help. If you’ve got a friend or a family member you can trust, have a conversation about how you’re feeling. Rather talk to a stranger? Many people have access to Employee Family Assistance Programs (EFAP) that they may not even be aware of as part of their employment benefits. If this isn’t a possibility, your local Mental Health and Addictions office or your doctor would be able to connect you to resources and/or offer some options to you. If you’re worried about confidentiality, I’d encourage you to ask the agency you’re talking to what their policy is about confidentiality before you make your appointment. That way you know your information is secure.
Lastly, another way to stay healthy ourselves is to take the opportunity to help others. If a buddy comes to you with an issue, take the opportunity to listen without feeling the need to solve the problem. Being an empathetic ear goes a long way, and it really takes the pressure off if you realize you don’t have to have all the answers either. If it seems appropriate, share some of the resources above, and if you’re worried about safety or feel like the problem is out of your league, get some help! Call the local agency that provides mental health services and get some support or information.
About Nick Rempel
Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. He posts a monthly blog, "The Grizzly Truth," which aims to shed light on men's mental wellness. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.