MENtion Health: A Panel event and Campaign for Men’s Mental Health by Superdrug

On Wednesday 4th November, National Stress Awareness Day, Superdrug invited me to a zoom virtual panel event highlighting men’s mental health.

They said, ‘The event will aim to break taboos and increase the conversation around the mental health challenges that men have faced during the current coronavirus pandemic. ‘

We had a chance to listen to some famous and insightful panelists, including

Professor Green – Award winning musician and patron of CALM charity

Chris Hughes– TV personality

Matt Johnson– Broadcaster and mental health advocate

Alexander Leon– Writer and social change advocate

Dr Amir Khan– Doctor and best selling author

(image: Superdrug)

In October 2020, Superdrug conducted research to find out how the pandemic is currently affecting people’s mental health.

The research was conducted among 3419 of its customers. Key findings are highlighted below:

● 86% of people believe men find it more difficult talking about mental health issues than women

● 82% of people believe there’s still too much stigma attached to mental health problems

● 71% don’t think employers take mental health problems seriously enough

● 80% of people would like to see mental health services being made more accessible to people

● 66% people said that their mental health is still being impacted by the pandemic.

As a result, Superdrug decided to launch a new service, known as Mind Care Superdrug. There will be an online doctor for people to find mental health support, with a video consultation and people will be referred to appropriate services. This will be a huge step forward and is an amazing thing to do!

Matt Johnson opened the panel, introducing each pannelist in turn to discuss men’s mental health. For me as woman, I recognise how important it is for men to speak out about their feelings after generations of stigma around mental health.

Professor Green talked about his battle with life long anxiety, saying ‘You just want to get out out of your own skin’, anxiety can be difficult but in life we encounter difficulties and learn to build resilience. Prof Green experienced anxiety as a child and teenager and still deals with it to this day and promotes talking about men’s mental health. He also spoke later in the discussion about self harm in men, to include drug and alcohol abuse and his familys own experience of suicide.

Chris Hughes then spoke about his anxiety and panic attacks, saying he was ‘proud to discuss it openly now‘. He said that before he became well known, he would get anxiety in the workplace that he tried to distract from by going to the gym. However, it didn’t work as well and now he is in the limelight, he has experienced panic attacks, which would manifest as pins and needles in his body and hyperventilation. Hughes shares about his mental health to help others, especially men, through it so they stop bottling feelings up.

Alex Leon told us that he was (in his words), ‘gay, brown and didn’t fit in’. He reminded us that LGBTQ and minority communities often have poor mental health due to a lack of acceptance. He said that 75% of suicide rates in the UK are men and that the narrative that ‘big boys don’t cry and men should just get on with it‘, should be addressed. Leon asked ‘what forms of stigma do men face?‘ and said often it is ‘Be stoic’ ‘be unemotional’ or ‘here is what a man or boy should be‘ – which all lead to poor mental health outcomes.

Dr Amir Khan also introduced himself and his work as a doctor in the UK- a GP working with mens mental health. He agreed with a lot of what Alexander Leon said and offered some profound insights.

The discussion then came back to Professor Green, who told the discussion that sadly his Dad and uncle had died by suicide and he felt mental illness ran in his family. He has struggled with depression and said, ‘ We all chase happiness. You should feel highs and lows- when I don’t feel anything is when I worry’.

Chris Hughes said we must normalise the conversation around mental health and Alex Leon added that self compassion is so important.

I very much enjoyed the panel discussion and really appreciated the chance to hear from great speakers on mens mental health. Superdrug are definitely ahead of the game!

I wasn’t paid for this article but Superdrug sent me a box of wellbeing goodies including Vitamin D tablets, vitamin tea, lavender and peppermint essential oils, sleep aids, moisture socks for feet with marula oil and a pampering skin and body set. Thank you!

Our wellbeing and mental health is so important. You can learn more about Superdrugs mental health campaign here: https://onlinedoctor.superdrug.com/mental-health-and-relationships/