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Just Reach Out: A Call to Action for Men’s Mental Health – News

Published: Thursday, February 1, 2024, 9:47 p.m.

Persistent loneliness can dramatically affect men’s mental health and lead to conditions such as depression or anxiety. In extreme cases, like that of Chris Haill, 56, loneliness that leads to feelings of constant isolation can also trigger suicidal thoughts or acts.

The British native, who has lived in Dubai for the past 10 years, identifies as a mental health advocate who speaks openly about being a suicide survivor and the many events and experiences that led to that moment of despair, with the most prominently the lifelong thread of self-imposed isolation that became the turning point.

“I had cultivated this personality of an outwardly confident and very self-assured guy, but inside I was the complete opposite: insecure, self-critical and constantly questioning if I was enough. I turned to drugs that helped me during the ’90s and by the time 2000 rolled around, I was severely addicted. People couldn’t see my loneliness because the drugs hid it very well.

“When I came to Dubai, I got sober and was clean for 10 years. Still, I got to a stage at work where, even if things were going well, I didn’t think I deserved it. Then I lost my business and business partner, who was my best friend for 45 years. I divorced my wife because I didn’t know how to share my feelings with her. I never opened up to anyone. When you suffer from severe depression, addiction, loneliness and suicidal thoughts every day, you become a good actor. I was lost.”

Following his suicide attempt in January 2020, Haill pledged to encourage men in his community to #JustReachOut to seek help.

“I truly believe that making meaningful connections can save a man’s life,” he said. “When toxic masculinity is internalized, it causes a lot of mental anguish in men’s minds. And when they feel like there’s no one to talk to about it, they feel isolated. Explains why suicide rates among men are higher in all demographic groups around the world.

“After sharing my story, I know I saved lives and helped over 200 men find the right help. “I don’t want anyone to get to where I got to in 2020. Just stretch yourself, because you don’t have to suffer alone.”

Mental health advocacy platform mentl.space, founded by Scott Armstrong, also seeks to normalize conversations about mental health and access to services.

“I lost my father to mental health issues. He was a very successful CEO but suffered from depression. He was one of the strongest guys he knew, but I think that isolated him a lot because he couldn’t talk to anyone.

“There is an isolation and loneliness created by the stigma of mental health, particularly for men and their ability to open up to the people around them. We grow up hearing things like we need to ‘man up’ or ‘deal with it,’” Armstrong explained. “We are still expected to be the provider and therefore carry the pressure to financially support others. “A lot of this creates insecurity and impostor syndrome when men don’t live up to society’s expectations and don’t have anyone to talk to about it in safe spaces.”

“So that’s what woke me up about mental health in the first place: wanting to change that stigma and how we view and talk about mental health and the loneliness and isolation that comes with it.”

Armstrong, a resident of Dubai for more than 15 years and originally from England, noted that Dubai is notably one of the best places to be right now in terms of mental health advocacy and access to services also due to the change in legislature. recent.

“The government has a stated goal that says it wants to be one of the happiest places in the world. They have introduced a new mental health law aimed at destigmatizing mental health in the workplace, which will have a huge impact on the way men view mental health and also how they access it. This will change the rules of the game.”

In May 2021, the American Perspectives Survey reported that only 27 percent of men say they have six close friends; This figure is half that of 30 years ago. Additionally, 15 percent of men say they don’t have any close friends (a 500 percent increase since 1990).

Wellness advocate Kes-Smith Green of KSG Wellness Coaching and Training, who has lived in Dubai for over 11 years, swears by the idea of ​​developing meaningful connections.

“We are human and it is biological. Sometimes we just need someone to be there to listen. Social media is a great tool if you use it well. We have a great group called British Dads Dubai and the men there are ready to support each other and be there to talk.

“I encourage men to ask themselves the difficult question: is my loneliness affecting my life and my mood? We all enjoy solitude, but if your loneliness is affecting your mood, thoughts and well-being, then simply contact us. There is no shame in it. And it could save your life.”

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

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