HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
Let's all MOVE together this November to end the stigma surrounding Mental Health.
My name is Oli Jones and I am the Head tennis coach at Brooklands Sports club in Sale, Manchester. Very recently I have been named Mental Health ambassador for British Tennis which is one of the very greatest honours of my life to date and I am unbelievably proud.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder after a particularly crippling bout of depression which very nearly saw my life come to an end due to its suicidal nature. I have been suffering from the symptoms for around thirteen years since my early twenties. Most of my illness has manifested itself in terrible episodes of depression but there have also been several episodes of mania which are equally as destructive. Both elements of Bi Polar, if extreme enough can stop you from carrying out the most simple of every day tasks. Depression can manifest itself in a lack of energy, sleeplessness, guilt, lack of self worth, and at it's worst can leave you feeling suicidal. Unbelievably, suicide is now the BIGGEST killer of young men in this country. Just take a minute to digest that fact - bigger than cancer, heart attacks, strokes, road accidents etc. Something needs to be done about this NOW. The other side of Bi Polar - Mania can manifest itself in huge amounts of energy, unflappable self confidence, very little sleep, racing thoughts and irrational behaviour. Although this is fun for me at the time, it is totally unsustainable and will often end in a huge physical and mental crash.
By far the most difficult periods in my life have been when I have been depressed. The symptoms of mild depression can take the form of low self worth, a lack of energy/motivation, tiredness, guilt, sadness and at its most severe, depression can be life threatening. These symptoms are particularly difficult for men as many men are not comfortable talking about depression. I think men find this tough because they do not want to show this as a sign of weakness. Historically, a man is "supposed" to strong and tough and therefore admitting that they are crying all the time or that they feel really sad or that they cannot get out of bed will portray the man in a bad light. The stigma attached to this is being broken down steadily and it is OK to talk about depression as a man. In Fact it is absolutely VITAL that men talk about depression because one day it might save your life. Society is becoming much more open to the facts about mental illness and there are plenty of people to speak to about depression. A good place to start is to talk to your family and friends and there are also some fabulous charities out there. My father killed himself when I was 18 months old - I wish he had talked about how he felt, it could have saved his life. Talking about depression has definitely saved my life.
Since I was diagnosed in 2012, I have been on various medication to keep my illness in check but most have been ineffective over the long term. Medication that I have been prescribed prior to May this year (2015) has been a combination of Fluoxetine, Quetiapine, Diazepam, Zoppiclone. All of these have been effective in the short term but unfortunately have not lasted. Five Months ago I was prescribed Lithium for the first time and seemingly have not looked back since. The last five months have been the most stable that I have been in 13 years for a sustained period.
There is no doubt that these different medications have helped but there are also certain things that you can do in every day life that can help alleviate the symptoms of Bi Polar and in particular depression. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a fantastic tool to manage your mood, I am yet to access this fully but have done a lot of reading around the subject. Getting enough sleep is an absolute necessity for sound mental health. A healthy diet and also avoiding the abuse of alcohol and other substances will limit the intensity of the symptoms.
However, there is one overriding lifestyle choice that everyone can partake in that will improve your chances of having good mental health and can battle the symptoms of depression - EXERCISE!! Regular exercise releases natural endorphins in your body which will make you feel happier. It doesn't cost anything to go for a little jog or even a walk. I have been going to the gym regularly and running occasionally which really does make me feel a lot better about myself. I have also loved sport since I was very young and am more in love with Tennis now than I ever have been.
This year I will be joining the other MO Bros and Mo Sisters by signing up to Movember's new initiative - MOVE. The aim is to do some sort of exercise every day in November and in the mean time will be raising money for Movember to carry on their amazing work with raising awareness for Mental Health issues.
There is still a massive stigma attached to talking about Mental Health issues, especially for men so let's use this Movember campaign to START THE CONVERSTATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. Talking about your mental health really DOES help and Exercise quite simply, can change your life - Exercise has SAVED my life several times over.
Twitter - @BrooklandsTC