1 May 2020

Spot a bro who’s feeling low in lockdown

Recognising the signs a mate is struggling could be life-saving
Mental Health | Staying Connected
2 MIN READ
 

COVID-19 has affected most of us around the world, so it’s normal to be finding things difficult at the moment. But some may be struggling more than others.
 
While physical distancing is essential right now, this situation has stripped us of the main opportunities men use to connect – which makes it even harder to keep an eye out for each other.
 
Movember wants you to be able to pick up on the signs a mate might be doing it tough in isolation and have those potentially life-saving conversations.
 
We know it’s not uncommon for guys to keep quiet when they’re struggling, and with men facing challenges at a level not seen in most of our lifetimes, something has got to change.
 
In the current situation, it’s vital for blokes to talk about what’s going on for them now more than ever. That’s why Movember is encouraging everyone to take on the Five-A-Day challenge and spend five minutes each day checking in with a mate.
 
And while social interaction is vital to support positive mental health and wellbeing, it’s also crucial you take the opportunity to look out for potential signs someone isn’t in a great head space.
 
Chances are, one of the men close to you is struggling right now. We’re not just talking about someone who looks or sounds down – often it’s the things which are easier to miss that suggest something is awry.
 
So how can you pick up on these signs when you’re not able to sit in the same room or stand side by side? While you might not be living with your mates, there’s still cues you can pick up on over the phone or via social media.

Image
HAVE A CONVO, SAVE A BRO
 

Clinical Psychologist and Movember’s Director of Mental Health Training, Dr Zac Seidler, shared insight into some of the potential signs a bro could be feeling low in lockdown:

Job loss or relationship breakdown

“While you can’t necessarily pick up on a man’s depression, you can pick up on a job loss. That in itself is cause for concern and reason to reach out.”
 
With things like job loss and relationship breakdown very real for a lot of us at the moment, we currently have a much more vulnerable population than usual.
 
Men tend to adopt the “tough it out” mentality when it comes to big life changes. If someone is going through financial hardship, has just lost someone close to them, is suffering from other health issues or has had a relationship breakdown, it’s reason enough to reach out and ask how they’re doing.
 

Dropping off your newsfeed

“Out of character changes in behaviour are something to really pay attention to.”
 
In the current climate, social media behaviour is something we can monitor more closely. If someone suddenly drops off their accounts, isn’t participating in the group chat or won’t answer their phone anymore, these could be warning signs.
 
You should also look out for changes in sleep patterns, diet or a loss of interest in their usual hobbies or things they used to love. If you’re not living with the person, they might provide some clues they’re struggling when you’re speaking over the phone or on WhatsApp. If they mention they’re always tired, aren’t eating much lately or they aren’t interested in chatting about things they usually love, ask them how they’re doing.
 

New anger or out of character mood

“There’s frustration and a lack of solution right now about what’s going on, but we need to be looking for agitation and anger.”
 
It might not be as easy to notice, but you can still pick up on changes in mood while in lockdown. Someone who’s struggling might be suddenly angry and ranting on social media, talking about not wanting to be around anymore during phone and text conversations, or even suddenly switch to uncharacteristic calmness or positive mood.
 
Anything you notice which is out of character is something to keep a close eye on. Those who are struggling may also express feelings of loneliness, worry and can seem confused or irrational.

The best way to look after a mate you think could be feeling low is to use the ALEC principle: Ask, Listen, Encourage Action, Check-in.

  • ASK: Start by asking how he’s feeling. It’s worth mentioning any changes you’ve noticed: has he stopped replying to texts? Does he sound different on the phone? Has he gone quiet in the group chat? Use a prompt like, "You haven’t seemed yourself lately – are you feeling OK?” Trust your instinct. Remember, people often say "I'm fine" when they’re not, so don't be afraid to ask twice. You can use something specific you’ve noticed, like: “It’s just that you haven’t been replying to my texts, and that’s not like you.”
 
  • LISTEN: Give him your full attention. Let him know you’re hearing what he’s saying and you’re not judging. You don’t have to diagnose problems or offer solutions, but asking questions lets him know you’re listening. Ask a question like: "That can't be easy – how long have you felt this way?"
 
  • ENCOURAGE ACTION: Help him focus on simple things that might improve how he feels. Is he getting enough sleep? Is he exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped him in the past – it’s worth asking. Suggest that he share how he’s feeling with others he trusts. This will make things easier for both of you. And if he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest that he chat to his doctor.
 
  • CHECK IN: Follow up your conversation with a phone call or FaceTime. This helps to show that you care; plus, you’ll get a feel for whether he’s feeling any better.
Dr Zac Seidler said: “These conversations are essential but difficult. We need guys to push through that discomfort.
 
“These conversations are essential but difficult. We need guys to push through that discomfort."
 

“As we settle into this new normal of living at a distance from one another, no doubt some will be in a better situation and coping more than others. We need to catch those guys we know are more at-risk of slipping through the cracks, now more than ever. 
 
“We can’t just be looking out for textbook signs of depression in our mates; the situation calls for a more person by person approach as we each try to navigate this time. It’s not all sadness and hopelessness when it comes to guys. We need to broaden our understanding of what mental health looks like in men.
 
“When it comes to looking after your mates, anyone can help prevent a crisis by just speaking to someone they’re concerned about. Saying anything at any point in time is going to do more good than harm. The right time to talk is nearly any time. So pick up the phone and make the call.”