Humans of Soton: Men’s Health Month
November is Men’s Health Month; we have met with students to discuss the stigma often attached to physical and mental health problems in men, and consider how we can tackle this. We spoke to Alastair about coping with depression whilst at university:
“I came to university much like any other student: excited about what seemed an endless array of possibilities. My first year passed quickly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Then, during my second year a number of factors aligned and I began to feel depressed. Depression is one of those things that, once you’ve had it once, you never really manage to completely shake it off. It’s not something I have to struggle with on a daily basis, but it’s definitely something I’m aware of, and it influences all sorts of decisions in my life. I have had 3 significant low points in my university student life, all of which I received counselling for. I refer to these as ‘flare ups’ of my depression, the most severe of which was in my final year of my BA. I spent several day periods in bed, avoided lectures, did no university work, and cancelled engagements with friends. When I finally did manage to attend an event, it was only to come home early, deposit anything sharp with my housemate, and lock myself in my room. Looking back, this was the trigger for me to look for more substantial help, and it was the start of 18 months on anti-depressants. I consider myself very lucky to no longer need medication, and my situation is a far cry from that of so many others. My former housemates won’t mind me saying that at one point, nearly all of us were on some form of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.
I think what’s important to make people aware of is just how many people they know might be suffering from depression in one form or another. Depression isn’t about feeling sad. I didn’t sit at home crying all day, although there were certainly times when crying felt like the only release I had. For me, my depression saps the energy I need to appear happy; it makes socialising exhausting when otherwise it would be enjoyable; it leaves me unable to care about even the most basic things; it turns the world a uniform grey. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in spite of my illness, and have just embarked on a PhD. I’ve developed coping mechanisms, and I know my warning signs. It’s not an exact science, but with help from my friends, I am, for the most part, able to pursue my goals the same as anyone else.
Men don’t talk about their health, but that’s something we need to change, and I’m happy to speak up. I have depression. It’s a statement much like ‘I’m an alcoholic’, but seems harder to say. Some days I’m happy and go about my life without a care in the world. And some days I inexplicably cancel my plans, and need to spend the time alone recharging before I feel able to interact with the world again. On those rare, darker days, I might really need the help of a friend or colleague to stop me teetering on the precipice. And that’s all okay, because life isn’t living without shades of colour, and you can’t have shades without a little darkness.”
Thank you to Alastair for sharing his experiences with us.
If you need support or someone to talk to, get in touch with our Advice Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org.