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Personal Health 2021

Men are taking ownership of their mental health

iStock / Getty Images Plus / fizkes

Noel Richardson

Director, National Centre For Men’s Health, It Carlow

The pandemic has posed significant challenges to our mental health. It is also a timely reminder for men, in particular, to pay more attention to their mental health.

COVID-19 has brought unprecedented disruption, upheaval and uncertainty to our lives. The search for a chink of light in the midst of the darkness cast by a pandemic might seem futile.

Or maybe not? The pandemic has forced many – men in particular – to take stock: to reconfigure their work/life balance and to search for value, meaning and purpose beyond paid employment roles.

As a potential catalyst for positive change in men’s lives, COVID-19 is a timely reminder of what other steps men can take to safeguard their mental health.

‘Real’ men ask for help:

Everyone goes through peaks and troughs in life – even men! Many of the messages that we pick up as boys tell us that ‘real men’ sort out their own problems. Thankfully, this is changing. More and more men are realising that it takes courage and strength to be vulnerable and to reach out to someone you trust to ask for help. This is particularly important when we face difficult transition points in our lives.

Be happy in your own skin:

We’re all different and none of us are perfect! Yet we are bombarded by endless messages telling us how we can be and do ‘better’. Accepting yourself for who you are is fundamentally important for your mental health. Being happy in your own skin is the cornerstone to good self-confidence and self-esteem.

No man is an island:

We know that men who become isolated and disconnected from their families and communities are much more likely to struggle with mental health issues. Strong social networks – with family, friends, colleagues – help us deal with the stresses of life. They enable us to feel included and cared for. They protect us from being overwhelmed during challenging times. So, we all have a role to play to reach out and connect.

Healthy body, healthy mind:

Looking after our physical health is key to enjoying good mental health. Regular physical activity that you enjoy can really give your mental health a boost. Eating a balanced diet will help you feel better and think straighter. Using alcohol, smoking or drug use as a coping strategy or to change our mood is never a long-term solution to our problems.

Work, play and sleep:

Hectic work schedules can leave little time to unwind and relax, causing many of us to feel exhausted. Make room for other activities and hobbies that help you rediscover your mojo. Try to set a good routine to get the best quality sleep.

Remember, small things can make a big difference. For more tips on minding your mental health, check out the HSE’s ‘Keep Well’ campaign

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