In my work as a counsellor, there are some common themes that crop up again and again. One is that little girls are brought up to be polite. This can manifest as women being polite to people who actually need to be told to stop doing something harmful. For women, being polite can get in the way of asserting healthy boundaries.
The other recurring theme is men coming into therapy 'being strong' because they have been taught as little boys that it's not okay to feel sadness or fear, and that even if you feel it, it's definitely not okay to display it publicly. Not in this country anyway.
It's the latter that I want to talk about here and it's the latter that drove me to set up The Wellness Cave with holistic fitness coach Cris Ramis. I noticed during the lockdown that lots of men were really struggling. Suffering in silence whilst carrying heavy burdens such as job uncertainty, financial pressures, social isolation and loneliness. There seemed to be so much out there for women and yet men were going it alone.
When I spoke to my old university friend Cris, he summarised this perfectly, "These days there is a lot of emphasis on helping women with mental health but not men until it all comes crashing down."
We decided we wanted to set up a 'man cave' with an emphasis on wellbeing. A safe space for men to talk about their issues, get a bit of support, and ultimately realise that they are not the only ones feeling this way.
The free Facebook group is still very new but we are really pleased with how it is going so far; we have been having some great discussions. One has been around the importance of habits - something both Cris and I are really passionate about.
In lockdown, we lost our healthy habits and as a group we are supporting each other to get them back in place. I tell my yoga students that you just need to keep showing up. I love the quote, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
The UK sees 84 men commit suicide each week - that's one man every two hours. If that isn't evidence that men need to talk more and support each other, then I don't know what is!
Come and join in the discussion at The Wellness Cave. Men's mental health matters now more than ever.
About the author: Natasha Wellfare is a Mental Health Counsellor and Therapeutic Yoga Teacher.