The Summer Sun Isn’t Always So Sunny
Summer. Hot, sunny days and warm, humid nights. Vacations to destinations far and near. Sleeveless tops, shorts, and swimsuits. Barbecues, pool parties, and cookouts with family and friends. Long days dedicated to fun and relaxation.
The summer is relentlessly romanticized as a time for us all to kick back and enjoy ourselves – free of worries and cares.
But for many, those same features of the summer months that give pleasure and happiness to others are triggers for behavioral health challenges. The sheer expectations of the summer can create a standard of enjoyment, which if unmet, can make some feel inadequate, left out, or simply not “normal.”
The high temperatures of summer alone are enough to endanger an individual’s emotional well-being. There’s research indicating that higher ambient temperatures lower the experience of positive emotions and increase both negative emotions and fatigue. Moreover, the heat may keep those most sensitive to it locked indoors and potentially isolated from support networks.
Summer vacation and travel represent both a break to existing routines – which can have deleterious effects on individuals with a range of behavioral health disorders – and social pressure to have a “social media-worthy” vacation. Some people may even feel an obligation to take a vacation despite having no actual inclination to do so. In turn, this adds additional pressures and stressors.
Beach season is time for swimsuits, tank-tops, and exposed skin. But for those with concerns about their body image, it can be a particularly challenging time of year to navigate. Particularly in adolescents, body image concerns are linked to an increase likelihood of experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Rooted in science and expert opinion, our content translates dense topics into easily digestible, actionable health advice. Piecemeal, the concepts are sound and effective. But overall health must be viewed holistically.
Your mental health is inseparable from your physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their mental struggles. As we move into Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we hope to change that.
Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, “Man up,” as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
Or worse: we nonchalantly respond, “Well, that sucks,” then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression on a daily basis. That’s more than 6 million men. Even if we understand what depression feels like, we rarely admit that’s the culprit. We lie and say we’re tired or just cranky. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. (Our own Style and Grooming Editor Louis Baragona eloquently and touchingly shared his battle with bulimia.) We retreat from friends and instead drown sorrows in numbing substances. One out of every five men will develop an alcohol dependency during his life.
Male suicide is rising at such an alarming rate that it’s been classified as a “silent epidemic.” It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males. That’s a staggering statistic. Drill down into the numbers and suicide is the second most common cause of death for every age group for men 10 through 39.
This macho attitude of stuffing your feelings down, or ignoring them, is antiquated and downright dangerous.
It’s okay to not have your shit together. It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it.
What’s not okay is suffering in silence.
A few courageous men have led the charge, exposing their plights to the rest of us. Singer Zayn Malik openly discussed his struggle with anxiety and his battle with an eating disorder. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love penned an op-ed entitled “Everyone Is Going Through Something,” chronicling his panic attacks.
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently revealed his battle with depression after his mother attempted suicide when he was a teenager, his words struck a chord with us:
“[It] took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
You’re not. This month, we’ll be bringing you a number of fantastic pieces and features that help shine light on all the aspects of men’s mental health, curated by our incredible Deputy Editor E.J. Dickson.
We’ll cover depression and anxiety, how to recognize the symptoms of each and what to do next. We’ll dive into the world of postpartum mood disorders for men, an issue that is more common than you think, but that no one ever speaks about. We’ll explore bipolar disorder, through the lens of Andy Irons, a surfer who fought his illness by self-medicating so much that it led to his untimely passing.
We’ll examine the link between gut health and mental health. Are there foods you can eat that are genuinely good for your mental wellbeing? We’ll talk about body dysmorphia, a condition our former cover star Dan Stein faced, as well as how to deal with that one part of your body that you simply hate and wish you could change. (You’re not alone there, either. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he could look in the mirror and “wanted to throw up.”)
We’ll look at the horrible trend of our policing agencies punishing cops for asking for mental help, and how good officers have to surreptitiously seek counseling outside of their insurance, paying for therapy and medications out of pocket, lest their badge and gun be removed. And we’ll discuss the science of male anger; why and how physiological and environmental elements can contribute to making men so violent and destructive.
Together, our voices can fight the stigma that real men don’t talk about their troubles. In doing so, we can usher in a positive conversation to replace the longstanding, detrimental silence.
— Sean Evans, Digital Director of Men’s Health
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Every so often, I get a surge of motivation to pursue personal growth. It comes after I’m inspired by a story of triumph, usually from someone who excelled at self-care. I imagine what it would be like to achieve true happiness, and I fantasize about a utopia where I’m no longer plagued by anxiety and depression.
In these moments, my type-A personality often kicks me into full-on planner mode. I create lists, set goals and shelve out as much time for myself as possible. I push myself to the next level at weekly yoga classes and begin a daily meditation practice. I read mental health articles so often that Google and Facebook algorithms identify this habit and feed me with more strategies than I can keep up with. I feel like a self-care extraordinaire, riding the gushing waves of hope and positivity.
It’s a beautiful feeling until the waves inevitably crash and pull me under — life gets in the way and I lose momentum faster than the routine sets in. My mind buzzes with 20 thoughts a minute during meditation. My eyes spend more time staring at screens than staring into the back of my eyelids. I feel like a complete failure. Eventually, I quit everything and sink into a state of apathy that only goes away when I receive my next burst of energy, and start the cycle over again.
Romanticizing the journey to transformation often gives me a false sense of hope that disappears the second I don’t feel like I’m succeeding. I fall into a pattern of learned helplessness and expect failure the next time I attempt self-care.
Recognizing my fatal flaws, I hope to break this negative cycle once and for all. To get started, I’ve created a list of five reminders for myself, and for others, to help us push through the hurdles and maintain a healthy self-care regimen.
1. Self-care looks different for everyone.
Many of us fall to the pressures of trying the latest self-care trend, only to find that it doesn’t suit our needs or give us the same results as someone else. While it doesn’t hurt to try new things, keep in mind what works for others may not work for you. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on practices that seem most comfortable and achievable for you and your lifestyle.
2. It doesn’t have to be expensive (or cost any money at all).
Self-care doesn’t have to involve deep-tissue massages, Tibetan singing bowls or overpriced bath bombs. The costs of spa treatments and boutique studio classes will add up, so it’s important to remember you don’t have to break the bank in order to treat yourself better. Sometimes self-care can be as simple as going on a nature walk, turning off your phone or finally reading the book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf.
3. You don’t have to do it alone, but you can if you want!
Time to yourself can be reinvigorating, especially if you’re an introvert like me, but that doesn’t mean you have to do every activity in isolation. Fitness classes are especially fun if you have a motivational workout partner. Plus, with a friend joining you on your self-care journey, you’ll have opportunities to improve together and hold each other accountable.
4. It’s OK if you fall out of a routine.
There will always be competing priorities that will get in the way of your routine. While you should treat time for yourself the same way you would treat the time you set aside for work-related meetings, don’t beat yourself up for missing a day or two. There’s no need to go twice as hard the next time you get back into a routine either. You can’t make up lost time, and that’s OK. Acknowledge the misstep, pick it back up the next week and keep on going.
5. It takes time.
We’ve become a world so obsessed with the idea of self-care and quick-results that we rarely stop and think about how challenging it can all be. We see the before and after photo, but we rarely see the struggle happening somewhere in-between. Focus on progress rather than results. Results won’t happen in a day, but progress happens each and every time you make a conscious decision to care for yourself.
Research used to suggest that depression was more common in women than men, but more recent studies show that men and woman are about equally as likely to have depression. For many reasons men are just more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated for their mental health.
While many men and women with depression experience similar types of symptoms, women are more likely to seek help for symptoms like hopelessness and sadness. Due to societal expectations of men to “suck it up” and not express sadness, they often feel less comfortable to talk about their feelings. Because of this, men tend to experience irritability or anger as signs of depression, and aren’t as likely to seek help for symptoms that affect their emotions.
In fact, it’s common for men to seek help from their general practitioner for the physical symptoms of depression, like aches and pains, gastrointestinal problems, or sleeping issues, rather than go to a mental health professional. This typically delays or prevents them from getting the proper mental health diagnosis.
It’s crucial that everyone understand the range of depression symptoms because untreated depression is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die by suicide.
In fact, more than 75 percent of suicides victims in the U.S. are male.
Men are also three times more likely to suffer from substance abuse problems, which can often develop when other mental health disorders go untreated, and an individual self-medicates with alcohol or other drugs.
What are lesser known symptoms of depression to keep an eye out for?
If you or someone in your life seems to be exhibiting some of these symptoms, take a mental health screening. While it’s not a diagnostic test, it will give you insight into whether it might be the right time to seek help.
Depression is thought to count for up to 400 million lost work days annually
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S – that’s 18.5% of the population – experience mental illness each year
Within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually
91 million workdays are lost in the UK due to symptoms of mental illness
These figures highlight how many people are struggling with mental health challenges and how that’s affecting their daily lives. They also show how much money is lost as a result of this. It’s currently a lose, lose situation. There is some good news though, the WHO has estimated that for every $1 invested into the treatment and support of mental health disorders sees a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. In another review on mental health and employers, researchers found that for every £1 businesses invest in mental health training programmes they can see a return of up to £10. These programmes work to improve the culture around mental health in the workplace, better train managers and overarching this seek to reduce stigma related to mental health.
If this is the case, then investing in supporting training and treatment for mental health is clearly a no-brainer. Employees will benefit and in turn, so will the business. Organizations aren’t much without their workforce so some may argue that their wellbeing has to be a priority because of the vast individual, organizational and economic cost when it isn’t.
So how can organizations better support the wellbeing and mental health of their employees? The Shaw Mind Foundation, which supports mental health at work, suggests that there are a lot of changes businesses can make. They provide 5 small changes that cost a minimal amount but are thought to improve an employee’s wellbeing considerably:
They also share some potential warning signs employers can look out for that may hint at an employee experiencing a drop in their mental health:
It’s important to note that while these signs could be because an employee is struggling with their mental health they could also be caused by other issues. If possible, The Shaw Mind Foundation suggest that employers avoid making assumptions, have an honest conversation but respect the privacy boundaries of their employees. The ultimate goal is to find a way to best assist the employee and in doing so it’s more than likely that the organization will be positively benefited also.
This article was orginally published by www.mentalhealth.org.uk
A clear distinction is often made between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.
Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.
Since the founding of the NHS in 1948, physical care and mental health care have largely been disconnected. There is an increasing call on healthcare professionals to consider psychological wellbeing when treating the physical symptoms of a condition and vice versa. You can read about the work we do as a Foundation to lobby government policies on the subject.
There are various ways in which poor mental health has been shown to be detrimental to physical health.
People with the highest levels of self-rated distress (compared to lowest rates of distress) were 32% more likely to have died from cancer.1,2 Depression has been found to be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease
Schizophrenia is associated with:
This is because people with mental health conditions are less likely to receive the physical healthcare they’re entitled to. Mental health service users are statistically less likely to receive the routine checks (like blood pressure, weight and cholesterol) that might detect symptoms of these physical health conditions earlier. They are also not as likely to be offered help to give up smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and make positive adjustments to their diet.
These lifestyle factors can influence the state of both your physical and mental health.
Physical activity in any form is a great way to keep you physically healthy as well as improving your mental wellbeing. Research shows that doing exercise influences the release and uptake of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain. Even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Read the Let’s Get Physical report for more on the positive health benefits of physical activity.
Physical activity means any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. From tending your garden to running a marathon, even gentle forms of exercise can significantly improve your quality of life. For more tips on the ways in which you can build physical activity into your routine, download our Let’s get physical booklet.
Good nutrition is a crucial factor in influencing the way we feel. A healthy balanced diet is one that includes healthy amounts of proteins, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. The food we eat can influence the development, management and prevention of numerous mental health conditions including depression and Alzheimer’s. Read about the ways in which you can ensure you are getting a balanced diet.
Smoking has a negative impact on both mental and physical health. Many people with mental health problems believe that smoking relieves their symptoms, but these effects are only short-term.
Nicotine in cigarettes interferes with the chemicals in our brains. Dopamine is a chemical which influences positive feelings, and is often found to be lower in people with depression. Nicotine temporarily increases the levels of dopamine, but also switches off the brain’s natural mechanism for making the chemical. In the long term, this can make a person feel as though they need more and more nicotine in order to repeat this positive sensation.
The promotion of positive mental health can often be overlooked when treating a physical condition. Psoriasis is one such condition in which the effects go beyond the visual signs and symptoms, impacting psychological wellbeing and quality of life.
Psoriasis is a condition which is commonly characterised by red flaky sores on the surface of the skin, but its effects go beyond the visual signs and symptoms.
Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition commonly triggered by stress. It affects 1.8 million people in the UK and can impact on emotional as well as physical wellbeing.
Yet, a recent report from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) highlighted that only 4% of Dermatology Units have access to a counsellor.
The physical and psychological impacts can be cyclically linked: the condition can cause emotional distress which can trigger a psoriasis flare and, as a result, cause further distress.
Some people with psoriasis can feel that their GP regards psoriasis as a minor skin complaint and are dismissive of the emotional aspects, leaving many to continue unaided on the isolating and emotional journey associated with psoriasis.