The Shona Project was built for girls, by girls, and we love having a safe space to share our experiences. This week, we decided to shake things up a bit and bring some boys into the mix, to hear from them about their lives.
Our fourth guy this week is Mike. Mike is a software developer fresh out of college who has a passion for mental health advocacy. He also seems to like dressing up as a banana? To each their own we guess 😂 So, take it away Mike…
Mental health is something that is talked about a lot but still manages to be quite a taboo topic. It’s something we all have, and for some people, a large portion of their life is spent dealing with mental health issues; with or without their friends ever knowing about it. Talking about our mental health with friends can really help make our problems easier to deal with. I am a massive advocate for talking to a professional about more serious mental health issues, but oftentimes, our friends can really help us when we’re feeling down or having a bad day.
My name is Mike, I’m a 22-year-old software developer, just out of college, and living in County Kerry. Mental health advocacy is something that I’ve been passionate about for a number of years, thanks to my own struggles with depression and seeing how beneficial seeking support can be. I lived with depression for about 6 years before ever telling anyone about it. It was something that started off quite small but grew to consume most of my waking and sleeping hours, but none of my friends or family had any clue that I was struggling. I refused to talk to anyone for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being that I was scared to burden those around me. I saw my depression as an issue I had to deal with, and that by telling others, I was somehow making it their problem. Eventually, I did open up to someone, and they helped me to get the help I needed. I’ve since told pretty much all my friends and family about my depression and I’m quite open about it now. If I could go back to that younger version of myself, I would beg him to talk to somebody, because I know now that this was never something I should have or could have dealt with alone.
When I did start talking about my mental health with others, I often found it hard being honest and open without feeling like a burden. If I’m being honest, I still struggle to talk about my mental health at times. So how do I do it? I try to keep a number of things in mind when I am talking about a problem I’m having or my mental health in general with a friend.
Firstly, and arguably most importantly, let your friend know that you don’t expect them to solve your problems. Starting a conversation like this by saying you just need someone to listen, can help both yourself and your friend by creating a safe environment where you can be open and honest, without feeling like you’re being a burden. At the end of the day, our friends aren’t usually professionals, and we can’t expect them to have the solutions to all our problems. However, our friends can help give us perspective and remind us that we may be too hard on ourselves at times.
Another important thing to keep in mind when talking about your mental health with a friend is respecting boundaries. You may have a friend who is already dealing with a lot and is not in a place where they can support you. This can be addressed by simply asking your friend if they are able to talk about this. Tell them that you want to talk without going into detail while letting them know that it’s ok if they don’t feel up for having this conversation. While it is important to support our friends and to talk about our mental health, it is also important to realise that sometimes our friends aren’t able to talk and that’s ok.
Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Whether it’s from a friend, family member, or a professional, recognising that you are struggling with something and actively trying to fix that issue. While it can be quite scary, getting help is one of the most admirable things a person can do. So talk about your problems, we can be really resilient, but everyone can do with a helping hand at times.
We want to say a massive thank you to Mike for sharing his experience with us and some tips he has learned along the way.
If you want to keep up to date with Mike you can follow him on his Instagram below.
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Keep an eye out for more of our Lad’s Takeover Week here at Shona where we get the boys involved in the conversation. If you have a story you would like to share with us, pop us over an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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