"Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid" - Mark Twain
I hate to be the fun police, but the current mental health challenge doing the rounds on Facebook is completely missing the mark.
The current trend of swallowing a raw egg, crunching down two tablespoons of sugar, taking a shot and skolling a beer is doing a great job of raising awareness for mental health but at the same time enabling the exact kind of behaviour that often either leads to strife or is used as an unhealthy coping mechanism once you’re in strife.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that blokes are bonding over the challenge and it’s awesome that the word ‘Mental Health’ is getting some air time, however, this kind of challenge magnifies the complete lack of emotional depth and intelligence that get most of us blokes into strife in the first place.
The simple fact of the matter is, too many of us have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol.
Alcohol is one of the most damaging and destructive readily available drugs and an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism that people turn too in order to numb the pain and distress they are going through. I’m not quoting any stats; this is just common knowledge.
Put the shoe on the other foot...
If I was struggling with depression or any other form of mental illness and I saw this come up on my news feed, it would simply compound my insecurities around talking openly about what I was going through because it shows a complete lack of understanding about what mental health is and how to ACTUALLY talk about it. I would think, these pelicans just don’t get it.
Saying the words ‘Mental Health’ doesn’t mean you’re talking about mental health; it just means you’re saying the words. It would be like talking about footy with your mates, but instead of talking about the game, the players and poor refereeing, you just keep saying footy footy footy to each other.
WE NEED TO GO DEEPER
This is what needs to happen if we are to change the culture around mental health and get serious about keeping men alive.
- Self-reflect – This involves a little bit of introspective analysis, usually during some quiet time on your own where you can be honest and ask yourself how you are feeling; if you’ve noticed any changes in your behaviour; if you’ve felt stressed at all; if you’ve laid awake at night and couldn’t turn your mind off or if you’ve felt down, flat or depressed for any reason.
- Talk about it – Find a mate, family member, work colleague and have a yarn about it. It’s not about looking for sympathy or anything like that, but by you talking about the way you feel, not only will it give you a chance to decompress, but you might just find that you give permission for that person to talk about their own struggles too. Vulnerability is contagious and it is well respected.
- Do a video about it (optional) – Only if you feel up to it and if you really want to lead by example, feel free to record a video of yourself talking about any of the things you’ve been feeling. But here is the trick; you don’t need to identify that it is about mental health. If it comes from a real place and you are being genuine, everyone will know.
- Seek help – If you’re struggling, there is help out there. Make an appointment with your GP, access crisis support services or reach out to TradeMutt or TIACS Foundation. We are always here to talk. One of the easiest ways to book a time with a GP nowadays is with Apps – HotDoc or HealthEngine are both incredibly easy to use and will have you seeing a GP within a few hours without having to call or talk to anyone)
- Donate – If you do a challenge and you’d like to donate, ensure the challenge actually advocates behaviour that leads to a better you either mentally, physically or emotionally - then donate to This Is A Conversation Starter Foundation. The goal of TIACS is to remove the physical and financial barriers that prevent anyone from accessing professional mental health support. Our text service is now in beta testing phase and will be ready to ramp up operations in no time at all. But we need as much financial support as we can get.
Written by Dan on behalf of the entire TradeMutt team.