You may be all over the latest mental health news and information and you how to keep your head above water in the sea of choppy times. Keeping your mental health is a top priority.
What about your fathers, brothers and male friends? Suicide rates are increasing with more people seeking help. It is distressing for me to witness the increase in suicides and men are the largest group in society who will take their lives. Statistically, they are are more successful in the act than women.
Men’s mental health – the challenge
How can you help someone in your circle of family, friends or colleagues?
With social and family conditioning, it can be very hard for men to express themselves. It’s not just that they are holding in their thoughts and feelings – they may be completely unaware of their emotions.
You can’t make someone open up to you. That opening needs to be made by that person. It can be very hard for someone who has little self-awareness to become aware the feelings and emotions. Once they have it may be easy for them to over-whelmed by the strength of what they discover inside of themselves.
As a backdrop to all this, men generally do not have the language to express what they feel.
This is not to say that men are thick or ignorant of what they might feel – they literally don’t have the words!
Allow men the space to feel and reflect
So what do you do? How can you help?
Give them space. “I want to be left alone, but not be alone” is a quote from an Enneagram type 5 person. I can relate to that. It’s a useful distinction which many may not understand: ‘I want to have people around me, just not in my face’.
In situations where someone seems troubled, non-verbal communications can be very useful. Just sit with this person. You don’t have to say anything. This can be quite a challenge for you, to just sit – remember you’re communicating non-verbally. You may well have an idea of what is top most in that person’s mind after he storms out of the room while watching the news, for example, with an over-the-shoulder comment, ‘What bollocks!’
This can give you an idea of what might be affecting him leaving you the opportunity to say something ‘artfully vague’, like “It’s all rubbish at the moment isn’t it?”. This has the effect of acknowledging his behaviour without requesting he respond.
He may get up and move away from you so perhaps, this time, he’s not going to open up to you. Let him be.
He may, alternatively, come back with an additional comment on the topic which gives you more of a way in to discuss further.
If he does, pace yourself (match & mirror in NLP terms) to his mood and tone of comment. There is no imperative to comment immediately and taking your time to comment may allow you to find a more suitable phrase or comment than your first thought.
Pace and lead
Again, pace yourself to what the person’s state. Match them in mood, language use and physical stance. You aren’t aiming to be an exact mirror of them, but more of a mood match. Sit down if they are sitting, stand if they are standing.
When you are ‘in tune’ with this person, allow him to speak, allow him to set the topic. Avoid judgemental comments or stances – remember you are seeking his emotional state, not what they think of the news.
Having done all this, whether he opens up this time or not, remember what you were feeling, in this situation with that person. Remembering this state of patience, accommodation and gentle curiosity can be useful for you to access with others in the future.
You can get into this state in the future, should another opportunity for a chat arises.