Earlier tonight, I had a look at the shortlist for the Mind Awards. Out of the 5 nominees in the blogging category, no male bloggers were nominated. Now, I'm not sure if it's a reflection on the talent of male writers or, more likely, the notion that men still feel such a weight of shame and adversity if they speak out about mental health.
The new academic year will soon be upon us. Some parents will see their child head off for university. You may look at this as freedom-at-last: your child will be leaving home, allowing you to do what you have longed to do all these years. Some of you will fear the empty nest syndrome. And for others, possibly most, a mixture of both.
We all have our own way of doing things, our own internal rule book, if you like, and we don't take too kindly to other people or situations messing that up. Holding on to a set vision in the face of challenging circumstances is, in most cases, a sure path to disappointment, anger, resentment and a variety other negative emotions.
Part of my illness (a trigger) is when I hear I'm going to meet someone like Matt and I immediately want to look up which one of us sold more books. I have learned to hold back because if it's him, I know I'm going to get that jolt in the stomach that signifies envy and if I accumulate a lot of them, I can tip into the foothills of madness.
My life as an Olympic athlete never seems far away, I meet new people every day who, surprisingly, still have their exciting stories of 'where they were' in 2004, the moment I ran into the history books by winning two gold medals for Great Britain in the 800m and 1500m Athletics events. Or when I am travelling around the world hopefully motivating and inspiring individuals with my old anecdotes, reminiscing as I watch for the millionth time my "moment of glory". Until now...
Yeah, you read that right - do nothing. It's not easy is it? What happens when we just sit quietly? Thoughts; I should be doing this or that, glimpses at past events and conversations, daydreaming about happy events, guilt for not doing something, anything - the list is endless. It's almost harder to sit still than it is to keep on doing. Isn't it?
For too long, people with mental health problems have had to put up with patchy services. NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and now, as demand for services rises, the signs of strain are obvious. Unsurprisingly, then, the three big priorities that came out of the consultation were: access to the right care, at the right time, in the right place; better integration of mental health and physical health services so that people are treated as a whole person regardless of where in the NHS they are being treated; and prevention, so that we help to stop people developing mental health problems in the first place.
We need to get to the point that men feel as at ease talking about their mental health as they would a broken arm. We need to help men equate seeking help not with weakness, but with doing something that shows courage and strength. It is, after all, profoundly brave to face up to something as stigmatised as a mental health problem. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that big boys can and do cry. And that's okay.