'It's OK to talk' about mental health worries
Alex McClintock and Adam Allison speaking at the BIGGA Scotland Golf Conference this year
This feature was first published in the June 2018 edition of Greenkeeper International and was produced with the assistance of Alex McClintock, a prison officer at HMC Perth who is working to raise awareness of mental health problems among men as part of Andy's Man Club.
Mental illness is an increasing problem, with a staggering 42% of men aged 18-45 having considered suicide as an option.
Statistics show suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45. Around 4,200 men each year, that’s one every two hours, are taken from this world and their families by suicide, and it’s quite unbelievable that there isn’t more awareness of this tragic fact.
A big underlying problem for men is the inability to speak out about what is bothering them. That isn’t an opinion but a fact and of the men who confessed to considering suicide, most said they believed it was sign of weakness for men to talk about their feelings.
Highlighting some of the causes of depression is huge as everyone is different. For Alex it was when he was made redundant. However, mental illness is a chemical imbalance in your brain, which is within your DNA make up. It just happened to be the redundancy that triggered Alex’s.
Some of the signs that someone may be struggling can be them going from quite outgoing and always dressed smart, to suddenly turning up for work unshaven and not wanting to talk. They may begin to isolate themselves from friends and family. If this sounds like someone you know, something as simple as saying good morning and asking them if they’re OK could be enough to disrupt the person’s thoughts, especially if they’re contemplating suicide.
But occasionally the problems run deeper and they need more assistance, and that’s where a group like Andy’s Man Club can help out. Andy’s Man Club is a talking group, a place for men to come together in a safe environment to talk about their issues and anything they have faced or are currently facing.
The benefit is there are other men who have been in similar situations and can help you with advice on how they dealt with the situation.
Actor Dougray Scott supports the #ITSOKAYTOTALK campaign
“Andy Roberts was a loving and doting father, son, brother and friend,” explained Alex. “He was a great footballer and loved playing with his friends on a weekend. He was an all-round top guy, one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting. As a youngster he was known to have frequent run-ins with the law but as an adult this had changed. He had become a polite, caring, funny young man with his whole life ahead of him. The way he had turned his life around was staggering to see. His love for his daughter was inspirational and the way he looked at her and idolised her was a blessing.
"Sadly, and tragically, without any warning, Andrew was taken away from all his family and friends by suicide. Andy’s Man Club is real life and we hope that we can help men to open up and come through the other side. In an ideal world there would be no need for Andy’s Man Club and until we can make it the norm for guys to open up and express freely then we will encourage men to come to our group and share."
Alex and Adam Allison are physical education instructors at HMP Perth and are passionate about raising awareness and challenging the stigmas of mental health and promoting suicide prevention, both in the workplace and in the community, hoping to spread #AMC across Scotland.
Alex said: “We have both experienced our own storms and discovering #AMC has given us the strength not only to deal with our own mental health but it continues to improve us as human beings and to help spread what we do, including going into our local community to talk to different organisations.
“Having suffered from mental illness for 20 years, I know how hard it is to open up and talk to someone. There is something special about #AMC that when you get the ball and it’s your turn to talk, you just open up. #AMC has made me a better man and the journey has only just begun.”
Andy’s Man Club is run by volunteers who all share the same passion. With 16 clubs across the UK, each has guys as passionate as Alex and Adam, who continue to work tirelessly, to grow the brotherhood that is #AMC.
Alex added: “We all do this in memory of Andy and all those we have lost through suicide and to help whoever we can, to reduce these damaging statistics. We are real and relentless and we won’t stop challenging the perception that big boys don’t cry, or that we need to “man up”. It takes more strength and courage to share with other men what you are going through and to help each other.
“We have to keep challenging the three pillars of #AMC, which are that you’re not a burden, you shouldn’t be embarrassed and it’s not a sign of weakness to open up and show emotion. We have to teach the next generation that it’s okay to show emotion and encourage them to share what’s going on in their heads.
“Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that mental illness isn’t real. We can still change how we perceive it and deal with it as a society. If we break our arm or leg, we go to A&E and get it fixed, and people are sympathetic. With mental illness, they just tell you to “give yourself a shake” or “cheer up”. We need to change how we think about mental health and mental illness and encourage people to open up and express what’s going on in their head.”
Remember it’s OK not to be OK and #ITSOKAYTOTALK.
Tell-tale signs of mental health problems:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating
- Extreme mood changes
- Prolonged periods of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends or social activities
- Feeling tired and low energy, poor sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Abuse of substances, alcohol and drugs
- Physical ailments without obvious causes
- Thinking about suicide
- Struggling with daily activities