Thanks for listening to another episode of It Ain’t Weak to Speak with Sam Webb. Please rate the podcast and leave a review if you enjoyed it.
It’s a sobering statistic that the rate of suicide is the highest in middle aged men. Men who have families, jobs, perhaps wealth and position yet are unlikely to seek help when they need it. With so much research surrounding mental health and a plethora of resources available, how is it that these men aren’t being reached?
My guest today is a remarkable mental health clinician with a wealth of experience in the male mental health space. Dr Sally Spencer-Thomas is a sought after woman having been invited to the White House, performed a TedX talk and worked to develop the national guidelines for mental health and suicide prevention. Sally joins me today, bringing with her a fresh perspective on why simply talking about mental health and emotions doesn’t cut it and how she is working in a different way to encourage men to speak up and get the help they need.
As a clinical psychologist in 2004, Sally lost her brother to suicide and she talks about the weeks leading up to this devastating event and how it spun her into working with men just like her brother. Through years of research and talking with men with traditional norms of masculinity, she discovered a gap in the mental health space. Sally discusses her findings and how men were more likely to listen to a peer than a health professional and more likely to respond if the information was funny.
Adding humour into a campaign for suicide prevention is unconventional to say the least and Sally shares about how her work with Man Therapy has opened up a door for many men to feel empowered and that they are able to reach out for help. She talks about the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace but that we need to do it in a way that translates to the people we are trying to reach.
Sally is clearly passionate about what she does and how being joined to a community is essential in getting through the hard times that we all face at some point in our lives. This episode is sure to encourage you, inspire you and give you hope that there is help available. Sometimes it just looks a little different to what you might expect.
TOPICS WE COVER AND WHERE TO FIND THEM:
[4:00]: Sally shares how her and Sam initially crossed paths and how it’s empowering to connect with people around the world in the mental health space
[5:10]: How Sally’s journey pivoted from psychology to leadership development
[6:45]: Sally recounts the weeks leading up to her brother’s suicide as he spiralled out of control
[8:20]: How Sally’s family and friends banded together after Sally’s brother’s death and discovered that most suicides were people just like him and that there was a gap in the mental health space encouraging men to seek help
[10:00]: How conventional mental health forums are counter intuitive to the men with traditional norms of masculinity. They feel that the problem is coming from the outside world and not a mental health issue
[11:40]: The importance of meeting people where they’re at and how the men that Sally spoke to felt that traditional mental health messages weren’t translating for them
[13:00]: How Sally discovered these men were much more likely to listen to a peer they respect and admire and that the way to get through to them was to make the message funny
[16:00]: How Sally partnered with an advertising agency to test out concepts and how these men were able to receive the information because the humour helped them relax
[18:00]: Men need an opportunity to fix things themselves first. Sally developed a “20 point head inspection” combining scientific research and humour which can be done privately and then starts pointing them to appropriate resources
[20:40]: Where do you draw the line with humour? It’s not around mental health but around traditional norms of masculinity and how they don’t work. It’s irreverent but it’s speaking the language of the men they’re trying to reach.
[23:00]: Sometimes people are really struggling because they don’t have the right mental health support, be it counsellors, medication or community. Being alone compounds the pain.
[25:00]: Making meaning out of your struggle can help find purpose and relief from their struggle
[26:30]: Sally shares about Guts Grit and the Grind, the latest book focussing on men sharing their journeys to help clear a path for other men
[27:30]: Sally talks about the impact of people sharing from their lived experience and how it gets through to people more than someone simply educated in mental health
[31:00]: How workplace mental health and suicide prevention is more reactive than proactive but that the workplace is the place where the message is needed because most people are at work and don’t step into a mental health clinic.
[34:00]: How people are realising that workplace mental health initiatives are needed after research conducted showing that male focussed industries have higher rates of suicide
[36:00]: How Sally helped to develop the mental health and suicide prevention guidelines in the workplace, creating an interactive portal which encourages workplaces to look at where they might be contributing to their employee’s struggles
[38:40]: It’s not a quick fix but small drips of change over time. Sally shares about a service they provide to give people tips on their current struggles, which has been especially useful during covid.
[42:30]: How the upcoming generation is way ahead than previous generations in the mental health space but they also have new stressors, which can also be amazing tools.
[46:30]: How everyone is in the same boat and needs to be included in the mental health arena. Sally shares about a time when she experienced depression and that we all need to find ways that help us through times of struggle.
LINKS WE MENTIONED:
Thanks for listening to another episode of It Ain’t Weak to Speak with Sam Webb. Please rate the show and leave a review if you enjoyed it.
If after listening to this episode and you don't quite feel right or you want to reach out to someone to speak to, we have provided some useful resources below.
For immediate support please call one of the following 24/7 hotlines. Someone will be ready to take your call. Remember, ‘It Ain’t Weak to Speak’
If you are in Australia:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
If you are in the United States:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text LIVIN to 741741 in the United States
If you would prefer to speak with someone face-to-face, we recommend visiting your local GP (doctor) who will be able to have a chat with you about what is going on in your life and refer you to a mental health professional if required.
For some tools to help you with things like stress, low mood, general worries, please check out our LIVIN tips and tricks here.
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