JUNE is Mens Mental Health Month and Action Mental Health want to encourage more males to speak up and ask for the support and help they may need.
According to the latest Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Newry Mourne and Down has the third highest suicide statistics in NI.
There were 219 suicides registered in Northern Ireland in 2020. Out of the 219 reported suicide deaths in Northern Ireland 160 were male and 59 were female.
With June being Men’s Mental Health Month I spoke with Service Manager for Action Mental Health (AMH) Colin Loughran about these recent statistics and the services AMH provides. AMH is an organisation that actively promotes the mental health and well-being of people in Northern Ireland. It is very aware of the health issues that men are facing, including the stigma around how men deal with mental health issues.
Colin believes there is “certainly an inherent cultural factor among males who are reluctant to seek the support that they need.” However, he is witnessing a change in society today and more males are coming forward to ask for help, which is encouraging and should be encouraged.
Mr Loughran went on to state: “It is known that males find it more difficult to seek the support that they need at a time of crisis, and this is something that we must change to ensure that men seek the support they need without delay. There is nothing wrong or weak about seeking support, we all need support from time to time and when we do, we should feel comfortable about accessing it., so hopefully the future is better, where males are less hesitant in coming and getting the support that they need.”
In the time that I have been working in mental health I can see the cultural differences now, where males now are more readily willing to come and speak to people about how they feel. Although, we are still a long way off that becoming an automatic option for people, support organisations must continue to target people and communities most in need to ensure the support is there when people look for it.”
In Northern Ireland, Action Mental Health operates three “Men’s Sheds” for men aged 50+. Based in Downpatrick, Enniskillen and Antrim, the “sheds” bring men together to share their skills, have a laugh and a cup of tea while working on practical activities of their choice. In the past year AMH New Horizons supported 725 males while 83 men were welcomed into the Men’s Sheds. AMH New Life counselling further supported 442 male clients over the age of 18 through one-to-one counselling.
Colin encourages anyone who is feeling distressed or suicidal to speak to someone immediately and know they are not alone:
“People should know that help and support is available, there is good local support available in the Newry area. Action Mental Health have a partnership with PIPS Hope & Support and collectively we deliver a range of preventative, interventionist and post prevention supports for people across the Southern area regarding mental health promotion, suicide and self-harm prevention. PIPS H&S also offer local people support through their Well-bean Crisis Café in Newry, which is open each Friday evening through the weekend until Monday evening. shouldn’t feel ashamed to feel that it’s a
We need to ensure that no matter who you are, what age you are, or what your gender is, that you feel comfortable coming to speak to someone at the time that you need it.
“There is a disparity between the male and female population in relation to seeking support and let’s hope that going forward in the future that we break down that barrier for males to get the support that they need very quickly.”
From analysing the recent statistical increase it could be suggested that the pandemic was a factor for the rise in people taking their own lives. The lockdowns, increased unemployment and isolation, and other factors have only increased this concern. It has led to people being cut off from their normal way of living and socialising and this could have a damaging effect on a person’s well-being.
Colin continued: “, Covid has had a negative impact on how we function, it has hindered our freedoms, it has prevented us from doing the things that usually keep us healthy, like sports and having social events. So covid has had a negative impact on people’s mental health across the spectrum, but for people like myself poor mental health challenges are something that have always been there. We certainly need more support for services such as our own to ensure that when they are needed, they are there for people to help them through the challenges that they have.”
The AMH Service Manager encourages people to reach out to a friend or family member for support, anyone you are comfortable talking to, although he is aware that this that can be very difficult for people. Therefore, there are support services such as Action Mental Health, PIPs H&S, Lifeline, Samaritans and more within your area, use them and use them quickly to prevent any situation getting worse. The earlier people get support, the better.
Action Mental Health is NI’s largest mental health charity , offering a comprehensive range of support services. Integral to the organisation is its nine New Horizons services, dotted across Northern Ireland – north, south, east and west, where clients benefit from a variety of personal development, vocational skills and employability training options including accredited qualifications and work placements. A variety of resilience-building techniques are also pivotal to their range of services delivered to school children and young people in further and higher education. Therapeutic counselling for children, young people, adults, families are also offered, including services for the deaf community.
Colin is aware of the empowering work that is being carried out by different organisations around the district. Through this work there is the hope of erasing the stigma that discussing mental health holds over people today.
He stated: “There is a lot of good work going on through local organisations and I am aware that there are good structures within schools, within youth/ sports clubs and health services within the area. I would appeal to those within these that if someone comes to you and expresses how they are feeling and they are concerned for themselves or for someone else don’t ignore that. Make sure that you value that and encourage that person to speak to someone else who will be of help to them or indeed if that person is yourself take the time to sit with someone and hear how it is you can help them better.
“These thoughts are temporary, and they will pass, and you will look back on this thankfully having come through a difficult life experience that has taught you then to cope with difficult experiences in the future.”
Next year they will release the statistics for 2021. Which will no doubt get reported on. But what often gets lost in the reporting is that behind every statistic is a name. And behind every name is a story. In the fight to lower the statistics it’s these stories that should be told.
If there is anyone who is out there who is feeling alone or in distress you can contact the Action Mental Health Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or visit their website https://www.amh.org.uk/