Mental Health Support For Your Husband Starts With Awareness
Despite raised awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues and campaigns such as ‘It’s Ok Not To Be Ok’, the percentage of men who are open about their mental health is still shockingly low, with 40% of men in the UK admitting that they never talk to anyone about their mental health, despite over a third (35%) believing they have suffered from a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives. If your husband is suffering from one of the most common mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, here are some of the ways you can support him.
Beating The Mental Illness Stigma
Although we’ve come a long way as a society in recognising the importance of mental health and its impact on every aspect of our lives, there is still a stigma attached to mental health that doesn’t exist for physical health problems.
While most of us would be happy to talk to friends and colleagues about our sprained ankle or recent bout of the flu, many people still feel reluctant to discuss mental health issues they might be experiencing, for fear of being judged. This is particularly true amongst men, as traditionally, they have been expected to behave in ways that are seen as ‘masculine’ and ‘strong’ such as repressing emotions, not talking about their feelings and just ‘getting on with things’, regardless of how they might be feeling.
Fortunately, there are lots of charities and organisations working hard to combat this stigma and make it easier for men to open up about their mental health struggles. As well as the charities offering traditional forms of support, such as the helpline run by CALM, which aims to reduce male suicide, there are also increasing numbers of support groups for men that look to tackle mental health issues in new and innovative ways, such as Men’s Sheds, for example, where men can come together to work on projects such as woodworking or car repairs whilst also gaining valuable social support and connection, both of which can improve mental health.
If you think that your husband may be struggling with depression, there are some signs to look out for. You might notice that your husband is less interested in things that he would usually enjoy, such as hobbies or leisure activities or isn’t motivated to go out or try new things. He may be more irritable than usual or seem sad or express feelings of hopelessness.
Physical signs of depression can include changes to appetite, weight loss or gain, sleeping more or less than usual and issues with sexual intimacy, for example, lack of libido or erectile dysfunction.
Anxiety can manifest in different ways in different people, but some common signs include feeling worried or stressed for no obvious reason, feelings of paranoia and mood swings. There are also physical symptoms such as frequent headaches and stomach aches, nausea, as well as chest pains, shortness of breath and palpitations, which are often experienced during a panic attack.
How You Can Mental Health Support
When someone you love and care about is struggling with their mental health, it isn’t always easy to know what to do or how to help but there are some simple ways you can support your husband. The first is to acknowledge the problem, sensitively. Too often, people ignore signs of mental ill health hoping they will resolve on their own but often this only leads to the person feeling more isolated.
Try not to take his mental health problems personally. This can be difficult if your husband’s struggles are affecting your relationship, for example, due to sexual dysfunction or because of dependency on drugs or alcohol but it’s important to remember that your husband isn’t choosing to be mentally unwell and that adding blame or pressure is likely to only make the situation worse.
Show empathy and ask your husband if there’s anything you could do to help or make suggestions of your own, such as taking time to get out for a walk together every day after work.
Resist the urge to resort to toxic positivity – using phrases like “Things aren’t so bad!” or encouraging someone to look on the bright side when they’re struggling with their mental health will only make them feel ashamed and less likely to turn to you for help.
Having a husband who is struggling with his mental health can be upsetting and challenging but it’s important to recognise early signs so that your husband can find the help he needs and so you know how best to support him.