What do you believe the significance of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month is?

As we celebrate Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s crucial to start conversations that matter. This month, we’re reaching out to our community to discuss important questions surrounding men’s mental health. Let’s raise awareness, share experiences, and support each other in breaking down stigmas. Here’s to a meaningful and supportive Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month!

What do you believe the significance of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month is?

Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month presents a great opportunity for those who may be suffering in silence to begin to open up about the struggles inherent to mental illness.  As a result, we may be less likely to take bipolar or any other mental disorders personally and ease rumination which causes us shame and increases self-stigmatizing. The more we talk about our challenges, the less power they may have over us. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders once I started talking about bipolar because I saw my condition in more objective terms and I felt better equipped to deal with the day to day struggles by doing more extensive and continued research. Sometimes we are forced to internalize our challenges because of society’s expectation that we suffer in silence. However, when bringing them to light during Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we can learn better strategies to manage our struggles.” – Matthew

“To me, MMHAM aims to break down barriers & dismantle harmful ideas that concern how men show up in the world and in the mental health sphere. Society has imposed specific expectations on men—for example, that they need to remain stoic and unemotional—and uses them as a barometer for their strength and “manliness”. These notions are entrenched in toxic masculinity & are incredibly harmful—especially to men who live with chronic mental illness. They lead to a lack of willingness to seek mental health resources, contributing to higher rates of suicide amongst men. MMHAM is a firm reminder that we, as a collective, need to unlearn these things in order to provide a safer environment for everyone so that they can get the help that they need.” – Conlan

“Men’s mental health awareness month is very important because in our times, men’s mental health is often neglected. A large part of society sees the man as the human that can’t have breakdowns, or show his weakness, or vulnerability, or express his emotions when things aren’t ok. Depression is a non-conversation between men, everything is always fine, when it isn’t. Men usually don’t show the reality of their emotions, and that is a bad thing. It is ok to not be ok, when you need to cry, feel free to cry. Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month is a call that you should express your emotions not only in front of your therapist, but with a fellow man friend, so that they know it’s alright to do it.” – Ricardo

“I strongly believe Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month is about starting the conversation. Many of us were not raised to communicate our emotions or show vulnerability and we may not have acquired the skills nor had a safe space to do so.  This month is about giving men the comfort of knowing that they are not alone if they are struggling and giving them a place to start.  It is also an opportunity to express that getting help is a sign of strength and not weakness. Too many men take their own lives due to this lack of awareness, education and understanding around mental health. We need to use this month to start these difficult conversations, provide education and work endlessly to improve and save lives.” – Lee

How do you start conversations with others about your mental health, and how do you prefer to be approached by others when they want to help you?

“At this point in my mental health journey, I try to start conversation through my writing, tending to share my story online more than anywhere else. I also speak with my family about it as well as my therapist. This helps me process my emotions and come to grips with past destructive behavior. I do not disclose my illness at work simply because for me, it isn’t something that I feel defines the quality of my work and I’d rather not risk the potential backlash since our society is still learning to come to grips with mental illness. If someone were to bring up my mental health struggles in a genuinely inquisitive manner, I’d be happy to talk about it but it really does depend on the context and the sincerity with which they bring it up.” – Matthew

“I am very candid when it comes to sharing my diagnosis with others. Living with Bipolar II, it is very important to me that my loved ones know how my diagnosis shows up in my day to day life. That way, they know how to respond accordingly when I have an episode. I have also developed a safety plan with those in my inner-circle, so that if things get dire, they can help me access the resources that I need. Openness leads to conversations, and conversations lead to solutions.” – Conlan

“Usually, the conversation starts with people I know who are dealing with mental health issues and anxiety, which makes it easier for them to understand. Today, however, practically everyone seems to have some form of anxiety issue, even if they mask it. I explain to them how societal pressures to achieve ‘success’—getting a degree, finding a job, being in a relationship, etc.—subconsciously affect my mental health, causing additional anxiety in pursuit of happiness. Now, I know myself better and I’m honest with my loved ones when I’m not okay. I appreciate honesty from others too, especially when I need extra support from my psychiatrist or psychologist. In our increasingly artificial and toxic world dominated by social media, genuine, constructive honesty is rare but crucial in conversations. It can make a significant difference.” – Ricardo

“(Laughs…) It could be argued I talk about my mental health too much at this point, but only because it is my belief that our vulnerability opens the door for others to feel more comfortable asking for help. If it is a scenario where I need to talk about my own mental health in regards to my stability, I have learned to just express that I’m having a tough time and could use a helpful and understanding ear, a hug, or specific help. It took a long time to feel this comfortable being so open, but it has only increased the sense of community and belonging. If someone else wants to help, it is best to begin with a soft touch and an understanding that we may not need, want or are unable to express that we want help at that moment. Often, the best thing someone can do is express that they are there to listen and just be there with me, without any expectations of things “getting better” or resolved. It is in these moments that I personally feel the most accepted and supported by those around me.” – Lee

In your opinion, does living with bipolar disorder as a man present any unique challenges? If so, what are they and how do you work on overcoming them?

“As a man, being bipolar does present unique challenges in the higher likelihood of experiencing anger and extreme irritability. Even if we come to better terms with these symptoms, it often takes a trail of fractured relationships to accept the impact these symptoms can have between us, loved ones and coworkers. I also feel like there is a stigma attached to my willingness to discuss my condition out in the open, feeling shame when I can’t control my emotions. There are times when I only want to speak about it with my therapist and it feels more like a jerk reaction to keep things bottled up. However, I now look at these struggles as both part of being human and also from the perspective of being in recovery since my initial diagnosis. I am grateful for Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month for these reasons and likely many more.” – Matthew

I absolutely believe so. In my own experience, challenges have come up in several instances in which I have entered a crisis. I have refused help from others when I obviously needed it, simply because I wanted to try to “tough it out.” Pair that with the stigma & fear that comes with hospitalization, and it has been a recipe for disaster. I don’t know if this is a manifestation of toxic masculinity, but it very much could be, and this is an idea that I am currently exploring. Regardless, I cannot emphasize the importance of seeking help enough—you are worth it, and you deserve to have happiness and peace in your life.” – Conlan

As a man, as I explained earlier, it’s not easy to have mental health problems. Living with a condition like bipolar disorder, which doesn’t define you as a person, I am a sensitive and shy man who typically recharges by doing things I enjoy alone. Therefore, being around people I don’t love or don’t know well enough to feel comfortable with can be very stressful. It sometimes poses a challenge because I become nervous and anxious, making it difficult for me to interact. The best way for me to overcome my fears, not only in human interactions but in other aspects of life as well, is to face them rather than let them paralyze me.In addition to these personal challenges I mentioned, another significant challenge is being attentive to mood swings, episodes of mania, and depression. The key to gaining control is to understand yourself and your weaknesses (every human has them) and to be open about them with others. Being human involves experiencing failures, and with this disorder, like anyone else, you learn from them.” – Ricardo

“Living with bipolar disorder as a man is tricky from the start due to the lack of education, role models and expectations that we become strong, providers, and never a burden . This delayed my own diagnosis and recovery by years, with my “pride”and feelings of inadequacy standing in the way of me asking for or accepting help. Even as I progress in my recovery, new challenges emerge. When stable, I present as confident, supportive, and generally healthy; this can lead others to forget that I live with a mental illness and can’t be the source of support at times. This can create more internal pressure to maintain this stability, or at least the aura of being “okay”. It is in these moments that I have to remember that my mental health comes first and that if I have to take some time off, get some extra help or explain what is happening in my brain, it is more than okay and actually the best thing for me.” – Lee

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