mental health awareness week

Words can cut deeply, so please use them kindly

For so long, mental health has been met with a lot of bias and derision. Phrases like, ‘They’ve lost the plot’ and, ‘They’ve gone psycho’, all exacerbate the problems of the person experiencing mental health issues. It has to stop!

If someone had broken their leg and had a cast on it, people would wish them well for a speedy recovery, but because the brain is such a complex organ, people have given mental health a wide berth. I understand that some may be fearful of saying the wrong thing and causing more problems, but we must find ways to support this.

Disclaimer: Readers will be advised that some of this article contains references to grief and suicide.

Mental health statistics

  • one in four people experience mental health issues each year
  • at any given time, one in six working-age adults have symptoms associated with a mental health illness
  • mental illness is the second largest source of burden of disease in England and it is more common, long lasting and impactful than other health conditions
  • some 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all 
  • men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK 

I lost a life-long friend to suicide, and it really shook my world. He didn’t get the help he needed, and it took everyone a long time to come to terms with it. He was always laughing and joking, and had an enormous smile, but behind the façade was a very troubled mind, which he found embarrassing.

I recently did a LinkedIn poll about language used towards men, and what phrases the industry think should be eradicated:

  • some 76% picked ‘man up’ as the top phrase they wanted to see gone
  • approximately 12% chose ‘just suck it up’ to go
  • roughly 9% don’t want to hear ‘big boys don’t cry’ anymore
  • ‘I wouldn’t let that bother you’ also made the list at 3%

In addition, the classic ‘grow a pair’ was mentioned quite a bit.

Men often won’t open up about how they are feeling; it’s no surprise really, given the image men often feel they have to portray. From someone who has had a family member suffer serious mental health issues, it’s nothing to be ridiculed.

I feel some people use the term, ‘I’m depressed’ far too flippantly, hence the lack of serious support and attention it has always required. We all have days where we are a bit fed up and feel like we can’t spin anymore plates but, for the majority, we reboot, decompress, and tomorrow is another day with a more positive outlook. For someone with serious mental health issues, they just can’t do this — they need the right care and right attention.

I once was told to sack a male team member due to a huge error and his failing performance at work. I categorically refused, as my instinct told me he needed help, not dismissal.

I steered him to get support and offered assistance from the business. I also spoke to his doctors to discuss my observations of him, and he got the treatment and help he needed — it was great to see him return to work months later.

Sometimes some people just need a kind word, comforting shoulder, and a bit of compassion shown towards them and, most importantly, someone to truly listen without judgement. We live and work in a fast-paced environment and the daily pressures of life can take their toll on any person, so let’s be mindful if someone doesn’t seem like themselves.

Words can cut deeply, so please use them kindly; you never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit to find your nearest branch.


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    Sue Allen

    100% agree - mental health has had a stigma for far too long and being told to 'man up' or 'just deal with it' and 'you think you've got problems - you should have mine' just highlight the lack of awareness and understand of this condition. Its not something you can just take a paracetamol for and work through it. Be kind to people - they may be laughing and smiling on the outside but inside you have no idea what is going on

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