Two men at the region’s mental health trust have today spoken out over why they are backing an international campaign aimed at promoting awareness of male health issues.
Gabrial Abotsie and Nigel Thomas are taking part in the ‘Movember’ campaign, which this year focuses on men’s mental health.
According to the Movember Foundation, one man dies as a result of suicide every minute of every day across the world, and three out of four suicides are men.
Mr Thomas, a peer support worker at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), uses his own experiences to help people seek help for mental illness.
The 62-year old, who was diagnosed with depression more than 35 years ago and suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, said: “When I was told I was depressed by a GP I knew I didn’t feel quite right but, like many men, I ignored what the doctor said and struggled on for 25 years.
“Then one or two things started to pile up.”
He began getting help from mental health charity Mind and the Wellbeing Service, which have both given him valuable support.
Mr Thomas said attitudes towards mental health have changed for the better in recent years, and he is urging people struggling with poor mental health to see their doctor.
“It used to be quite unusual to see a man accessing support but now we see as many men as women,” he said.
“It’s become more acceptable to talk about mental health issues. There used to be a ‘men don’t cry’ attitude, but thankfully this has changed over time.”
His words are supported by Mr Abotsie, NSFT’s new men’s wellbeing nursing lead.
He said he hoped that reaching boys and men at an early stage of their mental illness will help reduce suicide rates. “We know that there are differences in the way men and women deal with mental health issues, and that women are more likely to seek treatment,” he said.
“One of the areas we need to address is the stigma of cultural expectations and how it can impact on the ability of men to seek help.
“Right from the development of a child, expectations of boys is different. How many times do we hear people being told to ‘man up’?
“We need to see a cultural change.”
Mr Abotsie plans to create links with GP surgeries and offer training sessions on male mental health issues.
For more information about Wellbeing services in Norfolk and Waveney visit http://www.wellbeingnands.co.uk
For emotional support contact Samaritans on 116 123.