This new book by journalist and author Delaney is a no-nonsense look at male mental health.
Male mental health is finally being talked about with some kind of purpose, but one of the barriers to an open and broad-minded discussions taking place is the suggestion that some portions of society – often working-class – don’t want to engage and even if they do, they don’t have the disposable income for private therapy or wellness retreats.
Podcast and journalist Sam Delaney is very clear from the start here that while he didn’t grow up wanting for things, he does come from a blue-collar background and it’s that which gives him a unique perspective. Sort Your Head Out: Mental Health Without All the Bollocks is bracingly honest and direct. This is its strength, even if the author is at pains to point out he has moved up the social strata since his childhood. But he doesn’t shy away from the fact he is a ‘lad’ and often buried his struggles in drink, drugs and work.
In fact, it’s the booze and narcotics part of the book that’s least interesting. Delaney rightly explains that his substance abuse was a symptom of his mental health problems. But the narrative sometimes veers into addiction memoir, which pulls the reader away from the useful advice contained within. Sure, drinking to excess and frequent drug-taking is not a good thing if you’ve got depression, but Delaney’s sobriety, while admirable, is not the experience or desire of a lot of men who might be reading this.
That said, Delaney is very interesting when it comes to work. Yes, he’s not down the mines and his is a fairly lucrative profession at the level he’s achieved. But he writes about how he threw himself into his job rather than address his personal issues, causing even more of course, while spending too much time comparing himself to others, which inevitably led to insecurity and more mental health problems.
Many working dads will find these feelings familiar. “People should stop fetishising work,” says Delaney. “They should stop glorifying grafters. They should stop glamorising the grind. The grind is bollocks. Not only does it make you miserable, knackered and unhealth – it also makes you s*** at your job. We should start glamorising rest instead.”
Sort Your Head Out… is not a guidebook. It’s not even really an advice or self-help book as is the case with so many mental heath tomes. What it does do is provide one side of a conversation that most men still aren’t having. The chat that more men should be having (at the pub with an alcoholic drink if you want!) with each other. Talking about the football and Nic Cage movies from the Nineties is fine. But we should also be asking thoughtful questions about each other’s life and not shrugging it off when the answers sound scary or awkward.
Delaney has opened up his life in a bid to fuel those discussions – and that can only be a good thing.