Guest blogger Dan Reid tells us about how his mental health challenges impacted his life as a father. And how he changed it.
“I used to struggle with recurring bouts of anxiety and depression which would occasionally escalate into anger and frustration. This began in university and continued into my early thirties.
The situation intensified after the birth of my daughter in 2016 and the added pressures of fatherhood. This led me to experience a breakdown at work and consequently take two months leave.
My untreated emotions and mental health challenges led to a strained relationship with my wife, causing emotional suppression, isolation and exhaustion, and I am not alone in this feeling. According to new data from The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 1 in 2 (52%) therapists report an increase in cases of male depression over the past year. Despite this, 56% of therapists agree that men are less likely to get mental health support than women which means that many men may be suffering in silence.
It took me a while to seek help, but I knew I couldn’t continue like this. I also knew my relationship with my family and the people I love the most was at risk, so I sought counselling from a BACP therapist which transformed my whole perspective and changed my life for the better.
I was taught how to control my emotions and restore my self-worth. It can be hard to have an open and honest conversation with someone who is emotionally invested, like a family member or partner; that’s why I think therapy works and why it worked so well for me. It was an epiphany moment that made me realise I didn’t have to live like this anymore.
However, there are still lots of men out there who are struggling and may not know where or how to seek help. In fact, depression in men can often go unnoticed because men sometimes suffer from different symptoms than women and therefore don’t know what signs to look for.
Some of these symptoms are outlined in BACP’s R.A.I.S.E. apronym: Risk-Taking, Anger, Isolation, Substance abuse and Exhaustion – most of which I could relate to. For instance, although I never had an alcohol problem, I would occasionally drink to destress when going through a tough time. I am currently sober, which is one of the best life decisions I’ve made. Sobriety has given me a newfound life purpose.
Campaigns like R.A.I.S.E. are important in shining a light on men’s mental health and how to seek help. There are men all over the UK who are struggling with their mental health. But like most, they are probably dealing with these issues alone, just as I was before I sought help. This might be because of the stigma attached to men’s mental health and the fear of being perceived as weak due to outdated male stereotypes, or it might just be because they don’t know where to start.
After having many conversations with men from all walks of life throughout the years, I found others who could relate to my situation, so I decided I wanted to support men like me and founded the men’s mental health group ‘Men Walking and Talking’ in mid-2021, to help other men turn their lives around.
I knew a lot of men were struggling, especially during and post-pandemic. The group offers a platform for men to share their struggles openly and without judgement, while also promoting the benefits of therapy. I started a group running once a week in the village where I live. At this point we have groups running across 5 different counties across the UK.
These groups are organised by our amazing walk leaders who really do make Men Walking and Talking what it is today. Our leaders give other men a safe space to open up about the struggles they may be having in their day to day lives.”
To find out more about BACP’s R.A.I.S.E. campaign and to download the online booklet created by BACP therapists which addresses these depression symptoms, follow this link: www.bacp.co.uk/raise
To find out more about Men Walking and Talking and get involved in a walk in your area, follow this link: www.menwalkingandtalking.co.uk