First published 18 August 2022
It’s unpreceded for me to heap praise on a Tory MP or indeed any MP. However, this man deserves the respect, support, and admiration of every one of us. Senior MP William Wragg has announced he is taking a break following a period of severe depression and anxiety.
In a highly personal statement released on Twitter, he said:
“I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. At the moment, both are severe. I am resisting the temptation to give up entirely. As such, I require a short break. I know that how I feel is far from unique. I would say to anyone who feels similarly that they should speak to someone they trust, seek and accept support.”
Very important words that I hope we will all reflect on carefully.
Men and mental health
I respect everyone who is willing to talk openly about their mental health struggles. I have two female friends who are not shy in speaking about their own anxieties and struggles with mental health. It’s perhaps one of the few benefits of the pandemic that talking about mental health has become so mainstream that it is no longer a taboo subject. But for men, it seems it is still a struggle to talk about mental health openly or even with close friends.
Why do men tend to keep it bottled in and seem more reticent to talk about it? Is it unmanly to talk about it and do we men feel we will be judged or give off a perception of weakness? We must bust all these male myths; admitting a weakness is a sign of strength and we must all become better listeners to our friends, family, and colleagues.
- Three times as many men as women die by suicide
- Men aged 40 to 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
- Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women according to the government’s national wellbeing survey
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men
My own panic attacks
It took me just over three years to write about a panic attack that I suffered on my way in to work. It was very acute and resulted in an ambulance on full blue lights being called for me but, in the end, my acute anxiety subsided and I fully recovered after 20/25 minutes in the care of the London ambulance service.
I have suffered more panic attacks since I wrote about it in February 2021. I had a bad one again at London bridge train station triggered by crowds of football supporters but I was able to control it and didn’t need any help. But I now know for sure my initial panic attack was not a one off which I had hoped for, and I am susceptible to acute anxiety at times .
It’s good to talk
I have one friend who writes about her anxieties and depression on Facebook. I have total admiration and respect for her and see her page flooded with supportive messages whenever she writes about her experiences. Whilst this may not be for everyone, in so many ways this brings hope to all of us. Being open and honest has so many benefits, perhaps the old proverb of a problem shared is a problem halved applies here. My friend’s honesty is inspirational, and she is such a role model to all of us.
But if it was a man relaying these same experiences what would our reactions be? In all honesty, I don’t know. Would his male friends be so supportive, would they understand him and be as friendly, or would they judge him and say ‘go and see a shrink’? Equally would his female friends be more understanding, be supportive and be a real friend to him? Do women just understand things better than men?
I do not know how we are to change the appalling statistics on male mental health but without talking about it nothing will ever happen! I refer to the concluding remarks by William Wragg who said:
“Do not assume those who are outwardly confident and successful are without doubts and despair”.
We can all do better, can’t we and be less judgemental and more supportive?