Let’s not beat around the bush, because, let’s face it, that is what got us in this mess in the first place: men are rubbish at talking.
I make no apologies for stereotyping. On the whole, we all know it to be true. I’m particularly poor at talking about anything that might be considered slightly sensitive, like mental health.
It’s with this and the stresses of lockdown in mind that I decided to participate in a vlog in June to coincide with Men’s Mental Health Week.
It represented one of Health Shield’s most popular posts on social media this year, so it obviously struck a chord. And considering the current way of the world, it is perhaps not surprising.
It was recently reported that 20 per cent of adults are suffering from some kind of depression. That has doubled from 10 per cent since before the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Meanwhile, seven in 10 employees surveyed by Totaljobs in August said loneliness during lockdown was having a negative effect on wellbeing and productivity.
Being part of a wellbeing provider, we are probably more on top of things than the average man on the street when it comes to trends in health.
What we’ve been seeing is that while Covid-19 has not changed everything when it comes to mental health, it has accentuated existing trends.
Where we – as men – are concerned, that trend has always involved a reluctance to seek support for our mental health or disclose mental health problems to loved ones, as the Mental Health Foundation has pointed out.
So, I couldn’t refuse to do my bit and open up. What I really loved about this vlog is that it not only directed attention towards an important – and very timely – issue, but it also involved men from all areas of our business and different stages in their lives.
It effectively gave us all ‘permission’ to talk, and boy, did we. Any concerns that I would feel nervous, embarrassed, or that silence would ensue soon vanished once we got started. It was really raw and heart-warming.
And I think many watching could not help but relate to topics covered: from bucket analogies; anxiety over jobs; and the connection between exercise and good mental health.
I like to think I am comfortable with my colleagues and them with me, but this brought us together even more, especially considering most of us had not been in the office for three months by then.
That aspect – the lack of face-to-face contact – represented a personal struggle for me.
It is the face-to-face contact and long-term relationship building that really helps when it comes to mental health. It’s not so easy via a video call.
In short, I hope the vlog helps other men to open up and says to them, in the words of the late, great Bob Hoskins (1990s BT ad for anyone too young to remember...): “It’s good to talk”.