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YOUR VOICE: I’m Strong, Not Silent.

“There is a phrase I’ve often seen related to mental illness that says ‘being silent isn’t being strong.’ It’s a powerful and truthful statement but I would go further and say that being open and vulnerable is being strong. In the case of my own battles with depression and anxiety, it is through being open about my struggles and talking to those willing to listen that I have found an outlet to express my pain and move forward constructively and successfully. The idea that men should be permanently resilient creatures who don’t show their feelings is very outdated and certainly doesn’t have a place in our stressful modern world. As men, we can, and do, find ourselves (and place ourselves) under relentless pressure to be successful as husbands, fathers, in our careers and more besides; so it is little wonder that we can struggle at times!

The more open and honest we can be the better – to be vulnerable is not to be weak, it is merely to be human and every man will be vulnerable at many points in his life. That is not to say that there aren’t times when we should keep things to ourselves, at least until the right opportunity arises: throughout my 20’s I experienced repeated bouts of severe depression that came at a time when I was engaged in a career that I found deeply unsatisfying – I had little self esteem and very much defined myself as a depressed man with little else to offer the world. Every time I dated a girl I would end up telling them about my struggles with depression as I couldn’t see beyond my battle with the illness; my lack of self esteem made me unable to see, and be proud of, all the other aspects of my personality. One girl told me that if I ever wanted a serious girlfriend then I should maybe wait until the relationship had developed before launching into the deepest details of my illness. She had a point.

But on the whole, we men need to get out there and talk about our feelings as much as we can with those who will listen and not judge us. There are many amazing support groups all over the country with strict rules around confidentiality so we can say what we really feel, safe in the knowledge that what is said in the room stays in the room. There are also countless compassionate and empathetic individuals who are willing to listen. I feel really strongly that to be open and honest is a sign of real strength and can help us to manage unsettling feelings and learn effective tools for managing our problems. In my many sessions of group therapy I have learnt so much about how others cope as well as being able to safely unburden myself of my dark ruminations.

I do feel that more men than ever are speaking out, but the shocking statistics around male suicide show that we need to keep talking and encouraging others to do so – in many instances of suicide I believe that men do not wish to die, they just don’t understand that what they are going through is a mental illness, that it is treatable and is as valid as any physical illness. Shame is a very prominent symptom of depression. How many times do we hear of men who displayed no symptoms of mental illness taking their own lives, seemingly out of the blue? Far too often is the answer and it is a tragedy that deeply affects the many people left behind.

Please, men who read this, don’t be afraid to speak out about your troubles and ask for help, as there are so many out there willing and happy to listen. At the same time please be a sympathetic non-judgemental ear to others who are in distress as you may well do something amazing and help save a beautiful life.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, you can call the CALM helpline on 0800 585858 or use our webchat service, open 5pm – midnight, 365 days a year.  Confidential, anonymous and free from landlines, payphones and most mobile networks.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

3 Responses to this article

  1. I’m 48 and for as long as I can recall I have always suffered from depression.
    I won’t go into detail yet about what caused the depression
    but I will say that it started with the family I was born into.
    sadly my family is still a fertile ground for depression.
    I regularly think about taking my own life
    but what prevents me carrying out my thoughts is my family.
    I worry about the effect it will have on them?
    I was a difficult child and caused my parents no end of stress by my behavior.
    but my behavior was due to a lack of confidence and the depression that was starting to grow.
    not surprisingly I’m still a difficult person to deal with.
    I rarely give my whole in life.
    I think that’s because I still feel depressed and I doubt I’ll ever feel different no matter what I do.

    fred E Fireworks 13th April 2015 at 9:29 am
  2. Fred I can tell by what you write you are a wonderful caring human being. I am awed by your courage to share your story and the love you have for your family,even though you recognise there were issues growing up.
    I am the sister left behind after suicide. It leaves those you leave feeling huge guilt and I will be truthful and tell you I feel constant anger that he chose to leave us.
    If you do one think today ,call your Doctor ,go have a chat and ask to see the mental health team.you need to learn to let go of your guilt darling , a “difficult ” child ,is a child asking for help ,reach for that help today . Stay connected ,keep talking and sharing xxxxx

    tina 14th April 2015 at 9:11 am
  3. Tina,
    I just want to say thank you for your response to my post.
    I’m sorry I took so long to respond,
    I had no idea you had responded until I was browsing and CALM came up.
    I’m sorry you have been personally affected by a family member that committed suicide (hugs)
    I still struggle with serious depression and at times the feeling is so strong and I start to think I would be better dead than alive.
    but something Just makes me hold onto my life even though I regularly feel unhappy.
    one thing is that I still have a zest for life
    even though I don’t make the most of each day.
    I nevertheless still feel that I want to hold onto my life and keep going.
    Who knows one day Things will get better
    and I’ll feel glad that I held on rather than let go.
    I also realize for the first time that I love my family.
    I rarely show affection to them but I love them in the sense that I realize that they are Just as human as me
    and so they are vulnerable like me and have made bad choices during their lives…like me.
    I may be shy and quiet as Ive always been
    but I realize that doesn’t mean I don’t fit in (which is what I used to think when I was growing up)
    I realize that showing love for one’s family can be shown in other ways such as making myself available if they need me etc etc.
    I still struggle with low self esteem etc
    and that is normally when I feel guilty for not giving enough of myself to other people.
    I’m very complicated Tina,
    but I realize I’m still worth something
    and I think that as long as I continue feeling that way I’ll keep going.
    your response certainly helps me feel better.
    I hope my response will help you feel better
    even Just by me responding.
    Thank again Tina.
    sincerely from Fred ; 0 )

    fred E Fireworks 17th May 2015 at 7:14 pm

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