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The On Side Rule

Right guys, listen up. There’s a new rule we’ve got to learn…

Statistically speaking, men find the most difficulty in opening up about mental health issues. This is particularly evident when you look at the comparatively high suicide rates for men in this country. There is still a lot of stigma out there for us to deal with and it can make it very difficult for guys to open up about their problems to other guys.

The challenge can be daunting if you are struggling to open up to your friends. Temptation is there to just bottle it all up so that the lads do not think you are weak, soft or vulnerable. Often the competitive nature of men means that this is even harder especially among peers or in an environment where we are deemed to be in competition with each other.

It is not all bad news, though. There are plenty of great examples of camaraderie among men, whether that is a group on a night out on the town, a sports team training hard as a unit, co-workers spending long hours together…many situations where men are best placed to provide the right support. And it can be so easy. There is no expectation that you need formal mental health training and qualifications just to ask a mate how he is feeling or to listen to them talk about their problems.

So the time has come to introduce a new rule among men. Something we can all sign up to with confidence. Football fans who know the complexities of the ‘offside’ rule can relax, this one is the easiest rule in the world.

If you have a family member, friend or colleague who you believe is going through a difficult time – particularly when it comes to their mental wellbeing – you only have to do one thing. Let them know that you are there for them if they need any support; let them know that you are on their side.

That’s it. Simple as that.

Five simple words with so much power to help others.

“I am on your side.”

It might be all you ever need to do because somebody with a mental health problem can feel a little better just by knowing there is somebody there for them, that they are not alone. It can be the motivation they need to help them deal with their demons. The thought of knowing that there is somebody else who backs you can be a lift all on its own.

On the other hand, it may give you the chance to provide more support, to make a real difference to that friend’s situation. It can be as easy as just talking, listening, showing empathy and understanding. It could even mean signposting them to sources of information or professional support. But the difference that first gesture could make to their situation might be incredible so do not be afraid to show that person the support they need.

Remember, 1 in 4 is the number of people who will suffer from a mental health issue in this country; that could be a couple of your team-mates on the pitch, the quiet one of your drinking buddies, it could even be your brother, father, son, partner, neighbour…

All you need to do is let them know that you are on their side.

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