Mental illness can be an isolating, very lonely battle for boys who may struggle to voice their feelings to trusted family or friends.
The recent R U OK? Day and International Mental Health Day last week are key strategies to get conversations started about the state of mental health. Where are we at? Do we need help? Does someone we know need a helping hand? Is something not quite right?
R U OK? says with so many Australians effected by mental health challenges, starting the conversation with boys as soon as possible is key to opening communication channels.
“With many of us effected by mental illness, a stressful event, loss, peer pressure, study stresses, bullying, parental separation – we need to start the conversation as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for R U OK? said.
“We all go through tough times and the younger we are when we learn how to support people by asking them if they’re ok, the easier it makes the pathway to getting support and help,” she said.
R U OK? encourages starting conversations about mental health when someone has a “gut feeling” that something is not quite right with a mate or family member.
“Be kind, be aware and always trust your gut instinct,” the spokesperson said.
She said there were usually signs someone was not acting their “usual self”.
“Maybe their friend is more quiet than usual, perhaps they’re not involving themselves in activities they once enjoyed, they could even be angry or lashing out for what might seem like no reason,” she added.
“When issues like this raise their head, it tends to mean that person is struggling with something significant and they need help – a listening ear, a safe space with a safe person to open up to can be invaluable.”
Be aware the person struggling may not open up the first time they are asked.
“It can be scary to admit you are having a tough time and it can be tricky to know where to start. A lot of times boys in particular feel like they need to be strong or maintain a tough outer shell because in many ways society promotes the view that men should be tough and being vulnerable can be seen as weakness.”
“Not true, and R U OK? and our team of ambassadors are working to dispel this myth.”
R U OK? offers four tips to navigating a difficult conversation;
- Are you ok?
- Listen without judgement
- Encourage them to take action
- Check back in
“Friends and family can help by using the four steps anytime someone appears to be struggling.”
“Eventually the steps will become second nature and people find themselves recognising the signs someone’s struggling and check in.”
“It’s a great skill to have that can help people… help people…throughout their life.”