Welcome back to the last installment of our Movember series. This week's topic some of you may find more relatable than the previous ones, as it’s something we all have or will struggle with at some point in our lives, men especially.
Since the 1980s the suicide rate has steadily increased in Ireland, with the suicide rate now surpassing road traffic deaths and the suicide rate among young men being one of the highest in the world. In fact, between the years of 2018 and 2019, the suicide rate increased by a staggering 19%, yet the suicide rate of men remains three times higher than that of women.
Mental health isn’t just about suicide or suicidal ideation either, it covers a complexity of issues from panic disorders, anxiety, anger, clinical diagnoses like schizophrenia and personality disorders and obsessive disorders. Men are at an increased risk of being a victim of violent crimes, more men are rough sleepers, more men die due to drugs and alcohol misuse and men are much less likely to seek help and reach out.
While here in this article, I can’t explain the ins and outs of why men are faced with such issues, I’m highlighting them because I think sometimes, we need to be reminded that the men in our lives can’t always be the pillar of the family, or the guiding light. They can’t carry so much, no matter how hard they try, on their backs. Sometimes our men need us to take the torch and guide them home to us, away from darkness. I write this article from the personal perspective of a woman who lost her father to suicide 7 years ago, and so write these words with kind intention: we need to mind our men more.
What can we do?
Brenden Maher, Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide, Movember, states that “Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, where to start or what to say. As we push through this together, we hope we can empower people to connect with others who are struggling and find the help they need now.” He gives simple direction to follow. When in doubt, think of ALEC.
Ask – Start by asking how he’s feeling. It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve picked up on: has he stopped replying to texts? Does he sound different on the phone? Has he gone quiet in the group chat? Use prompts and guide the conversation. Try questions like, ‘I noticed you’ve been quiet or distracted, is anything up?’
Listen – Give him your full attention, let him know you’re listening by following up with another question, ‘That must be really hard, how long have you felt this way?’
Encourage Action - Help him focus on simple things that might improve how he feels. Is he getting enough sleep? Is he exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped him in the past – it’s worth asking. Suggest that he share how he’s feeling with others he trusts. This will make things easier for both of you. And if he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest that he chat to his doctor.
Check In – Check in regularly, try calling or face to face rather than text where possible. Meet regularly for a walk or coffee. Show you care and show your support.
Visit www.movember.ie for more advice on starting the conversation about men’s mental health today
Spot the Signs
Things to look out for in ourselves and others when we may be feeling depressed are:
- Loss of interest in hobbies, social activities, even disengaging from friends and conversations
- Tiredness and fatigue during the day which can be paired with insomnia at night
- Irrational anger, sadness and mood swings
- Negative thinking patterns that you are unable to stop, which can cause spirals
- Suicidal ideation and thoughts
How to take care of your mental health
The number one key to good mental health starts from the basics of good nutrition and regular exercise. Omega 3 fatty acids, so foods like fish and seeds, are made of DHA and EPA fatty acids, both being linked to lower levels of depression. Supplements like MorEPA will give you your full daily allowance in one capsule.
Another food source known for mood boosting are fermented foods, or foods rich in probiotics. 50% of dopamine, the happy chemical, is made in our gut. Our gut needs to be at its best and healthiest to make as much dopamine as efficiently as possible, and so added probiotics in our diet can create a rich flora in which good bacteria growth is promoted. Try foods like kefir, sauerkraut and natural yogurts.
Nuts and seeds are high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Additionally, they provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources. What’s more, a 10-year study in 15,980 people linked moderate nut intake to a 23% lower risk of depression
Regular exercise is imperative to a positive mental outlook. Our bodies are made to move and work at large volumes each day and doing so gives the body huge fulfilment.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to deal with mental health problems, improve your energy and outlook, and get more out of life.
One of our favourite ways to exercise, and yes, we may be biased, is through kayaking. Kayaking brings such a sense of being present, it’s a lot easier to push our worries out of our minds and focus on the activity at hand. You’re feeling the waves gently (hopefully!) rock the kayak as you being to paddle, focusing on keeping your paddle technique going to gain momentum. The cold of the water splashes into your face, drips down the paddle onto your legs and you’re just there. Just you and the kayak on the water. It’s such a freeing experience to be out in the open water with fresh air on your face, trees or beaches in the distance. It’s truly medicine for the soul.
Check in with Yourself
Taking time for yourself is so important, be it on the water or at home. Check in with your thoughts and feelings daily if possible and reflect on them. Why are you feeling this way? Is there anything you can do different? How can something be improved? Does it even need improving?
Doing this creates a safe space for thoughts and feelings, because happy or not they all exist and it’s so important that they are acknowledged for what they are, appreciated and then let go. Doing this makes room inside our hearts and heads for tomorrows tasks and thoughts. It should become a guilt free process of self-indulgence and self-care.
Reaching out is a two-sided street. Don’t wait for someone to be obviously down but reach out to your loved ones regularly. Practice listening and attentiveness and people will do the same with you. Become a better listener, better friend and family member.
This may be harder, but for those of us struggling, never hesitate to reach out to someone. Be it your granny, your brother, your boss, coworker, lecturer or friend. No one will ever want you to suffer in silence and carry a burden that may easily be lifted once shared. Speaking out is the first step to letting the light back into your life, and as Charles Bukowski says, ‘if there is light, it will find you’.
Supports available to anyone in need are:
Emotional support to anyone in distress or struggling to cope.
Freephone 116 123 every day 24 hours a day
Telephone and text-based support counselling for people who are suicidal or engaging in self-harm.
Freephone 1800 247 247 every day 24 hours a day
Text HELP to 51444 - standard message rates apply
That’s the end of our Movember series, and we really hope you got some information and help from any one of the articles we shared on men’s health topics this month. As we’ve said before and will say again, we Lakeland Kayaks care greatly about the health and wellbeing of all our customers across our green little island. We will always promote healthy living and exercise, switching off and getting outside to connect to our surroundings and ourselves. We want to say to our customers, thank you for your custom, we hope you are all keeping well and we hope to see you all very soon on the waters!