If getting a GP appointment is hard, is there anyone you can call?
Oscar: In many areas, you can contact your local talking therapy service directly. These are known as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy) services and can be found via the NHS website. Support can also be found through charities such as the Samaritans.
Brendan: Visiting your GP is a great first step. But, if you aren’t able to get an appointment or need to speak to someone immediately, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123. Our research has shown that men may choose to open up to a variety of people including partners, family and colleagues as well as friends, crisis lines and health professionals. It’s about finding someone you trust; sometimes that might be someone who knows you, whereas at other times anonymity may feel more appropriate.
Simon: There are some incredible organisations out there doing vital work including the NHS and GPs, the charity sector, and community groups across the UK. It’s important people can recognise they’re not alone if they’re feeling low and there is support available. CALM works very hard to raise awareness of our free and anonymous helpline and webchat, which is open every day from 5pm to midnight.
When it comes to work, should you talk to your employer?
Brendan: Research commissioned by Movember has shown that many men are still reluctant to open up in the workplace when they’re experiencing challenges to their mental health – citing concerns that they feel it might limit their career or even put their job at risk. There’s no hard and fast rule about whether this is the right thing to do because everyone’s situation regarding the workplace is different. There’s a lot of work being done, including by Movember, to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health so that more men can feel comfortable talking openly in every context.
Oscar: It depends to some extent on your team’s attitude to mental health – hopefully it’s positive. Usually being open and honest is the best option, but it’s worth confirming the diagnosis and coming up with a suitable treatment plan in your own mind before sharing the problem too widely.
Do you have any advice for coping with New Year blues?
Oscar: Set yourself some achievable aims. Be realistic with what you can achieve and don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t underestimate the importance of regular exercise and mindfulness in improving both physical and mental health. Carving out some time for yourself in a busy schedule is a vital technique for self-preservation.
If you suspect a friend or someone you know has depression, what can you do to help them?
Simon: If you're concerned about someone, ask them. Explore how they’re feeling with open questions and, above all, listen. We all go through tough times, whether it’s the breakdown of a relationship, losing a job, or going through a bereavement. It’s important to know that checking in on someone, even if it's just a text, can make a huge difference. Make sure they’re aware of the services available out there – like CALM, the Samaritans, or the GP – and make a plan. Don’t be afraid to involve family, friends or colleagues so that the person has a support network around them.
Brendan: Chances are, there’s a man close to you who is struggling with their mental health right now. If you spot something, ask them how they’re doing and don’t be worried about asking a second time if they reply with, “I’m doing fine, thanks.” Making an observation about why you’re concerned can add some weight to a conversation that can be lifesaving.
A good starting point in approaching a mate you think is feeling low is to use the Ask, Listen, Encourage Action, Check-in (ALEC) conversation guide:
ASK Start by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed. Maybe he’s spending more time at the bar, coming into work late, or missing social events: “You’ve not quite seemed yourself recently. Are you okay?” Trust your instinct. Remember, we often say “I’m fine” when we’re not. If you think something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to ask twice.
LISTEN Try to give him your full attention, without interruptions. Don’t feel you have to diagnose problems, offer solutions or give advice. Just let him know you’re all ears, judgement free: “That can’t be easy. How long have you felt that way?” Follow-up questions are good too. They’ll help let him know you’re listening.
ENCOURAGE ACTION Help him to focus on simple things that might improve his wellbeing: is he getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating properly? Maybe there’s something that’s helped before? Suggest he tells other people he trusts how he’s feeling. This will make things easier – for both of you. If he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest he sees his doctor.
CHECK-IN Suggest you catch up soon – in person if you can. If you can’t manage a meet-up, make time for a call, or drop him a message. This will show you care. Plus, you’ll get a feel for whether he’s feeling any better. If you’re worried that somebody’s life is in immediate danger, go directly to emergency services.