How to lean into men’s mental health

This week, I was lucky enough to share some of my insights into men’s mental health at a men’s circle event at Agnes Water. The issue of men’s mental health is a major issue in Australia, most people know that a lot of men die by suicide each year in this country. And we need to do something about it. 

I shared my experience of having a serious workplace incident, and the impacts that experience had on my life. The good, the bad and the ugly.  

I shared what 100 days of anxiety looked like for me, and how hard that process was. From the seeing a doctor for a script, and not getting it filled. To talking myself through the process.  

Recently, and maybe since this year is my 50th, I have started to feel compelled to share more of my experiences, and challenges. In the hope that others must just learn something from my story. 

Though in general terms I have been very blessed in my life, there have been one or two little hurdles along the way, that have been very difficult to deal with. And without my supportive wife and kids, the stories might have been different…  

With 44% of Australians being diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime, it is important to lean into particularly men’s mental health and make it ok for men to open up to others.  

But I don’t think men have trouble sharing their feelings. What I think the problem is, is that other men aren’t good listeners, and they don’t hold the space. They try to fix stuff up. That is not supportive.  

Here are some things that I would share with men everywhere to help them reach out when they need to. 

1. Be vulnerable 

When I talk to groups about any topics, including mental health, I try to provide practical advice and tips that can be implemented straight away.  

Topics like being vulnerable are very broad topics. And most people can describe what it means – to share your inner struggles with another human, even if it means that they know deep personal stuff about you – but it is harder to actually practice it.  

Vulnerability takes a whole lot of courage for men. This is about exposing your underbelly and giving people information about you that they could share or use ‘against you’ in the future. Which is what one man in the men’s circle said was his biggest issue with sharing personal information. 

The action, or the process, of being vulnerable always starts with words like – I am feeling, I feel like, I am experiencing, I am hurting… or I need someone to talk to. 

2. Be empathetic 

Vulnerability is for the person speaking, whereas empathy is for the person listening.  

Listening with care factor.  

Empathy is about stepping into the same emotional experience that the other person is having. Which is very achievable for any man. If they are willing to make the effort. There are times when empathy starts at sympathy, which is a natural response, and in those cases, it is easier to feel what someone else is feeling. 

There are times though, when you need to come to empathy from apathy (low care factor) because their challenges don’t seem big enough. That is where the real effort comes in. And that is ok. 

The action, or the process, of being vulnerable always starts with words like – thanks for trusting me, thanks for sharing, congrats for being courageous, or I’m here for you. 

3. Be present 

To me, this is the most important skill set, when it comes to supporting someone that is struggling. Being present means being in the conversation. It means holding the space (thanks Brene Brown). And it means keeping your mind focused on the not only the words being said, but also the message behind them. 

Being present is a little like leadership listening, when you are listening to understand, not to respond. And yes, if you think back to empathy, above, it is nearly impossible to be empathetic if you are not present. 

Presence can mean not even talking at times. It can be just sitting with someone who is hurting. It can be about just being there. If the person has things to share, it is about lingering in the conversation. Not changing the topic, not deflecting. Being available.  

The action, or the process, of being present is simply about, tell me more. Talk me through it. What I’m hearing is…  

In summary, every man has a story. And at some stage, every man will need someone to listen to them. If you ever need to share your story, find someone you trust, and be vulnerable. If anyone ever needs to share their story with you, be empathetic and be present. 

Please reach out if you need to talk. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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