At least half of men with depression could be treated for the price of a flat-screen telly
In his last article about his own experiences of therapy, malehealth editor Jim Pollard forgets the source of a quote, doesn't bother to look it up and isn't bothered about it. A Eureka moment!
'The unexamined life is not worth living.'
I can't remember who said that. One of the ancient Greek philosophers, probably. Socrates I reckon - it usually is - but I'm not going to check because it's irrelevant to this article. It's the words that matter not who said them.
I don't think they're entirely true either as I'm sure a lot of people live quite contented lives without ever examining them. But if you're not content - and these days more and more of us say we're unhappy, it makes sense to ask why. To use the sort of motoring metaphor that has made Dr Ian Banks Haynes health manuals so successful, if the engine is misfiring, it needs tuning and to do that you need to look under the bonnet.
Before I had a look under my bonnet, you can't imagine how annoyed I would have got with myself for not remembering the origin of that unexamined life quote. I tended to see not remembering facts like this as proof of my utter stupidity. Yet, at the same time, I would be arguing — when I used to work as a teacher - that an exam-based education system was unfair on students with poor memories for facts. There's a contradiction there as wide as the Grand Canyon, don't you think?
The thing is that I had one rule for myself and one for other people. A lot of depressed people exhibit this form of perfectionism. (I'd actually suggest that most perfectionists are depressed most of the time.) It's a form of arrogance if you think about it — expecting higher standards from yourself than from other people - as if you're something special. You're not. You're human, like everyone else.
This way of thinking made me unhappy and it did, in a way, make me more stupid as it prevented me from seeing the truth for the facts.
If I really need to know a quote, I can look it up. The point is to understand it. Raw knowledge is actually pretty useless.
If you think about it, facts alone won't get you beyond the end of your nose when it comes to answering the really important questions in life like does this person really love me or do I really love them, should I do X or should I do Y. Facts cannot tell us why we are here or what happens when we die.
We can never know the answers to any of these things. The only knowledge that might help us here is self-knowledge. Apart from that the important questions in life are all about faith, feelings and the insight that comes with imagination and experience. Looking under the bonnet will help you with all these.
Don't take my word for it. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) reckons that at least half of the one in six people with depression or a chronic anxiety disorder could be treated successfully with just £750 of therapy.
What's that? The price of a flat-screen telly? Campaigners are saying that this is a lot cheaper than the £750 a month that people with severe depression get on incapacity benefit. Talk to your doctor about it if you're interested.
Also read all the articles on malehealth about happiness and mental health posted specially for Men's Health Week.
Well, I would say that. But I'd also stress this: reading about these things can only take you so far. They can help you see how talking about how you feel has helped other people but ultimately it's down to you.
That's why I'm pretty cynical about psychological self-help books with whacky titles that promise you the world. The material in them may —or may not — have worked for the author but it won't necessarily work for you and reading self-help book after self-help book is frankly just procrastination. Not wanting to bit the bullet.
Writing is far more useful. If talking to someone else seems daunting, talk to yourself. Things become clearer when you write them down. Writing for nobody's eyes but your own can soothe away those little irritations that combine to drag down your day.
It need not be a journal. A few years ago when writing an article about how writing can make you happier, I contacted a well-known author who had written a book about his health problems and asked how the process had helped him. He was a bit up his own arse and turned me down because I hadn't read the book. His snotty attitude left me feeling very small and stupid. So I wrote him an email — explaining how I felt and pointing out that the piece wasn't about him, his ego or his book but about the benefits of writing. It wasn't a very long email and I didn't send it, but I felt a whole lot better afterwards. Five minutes. It was that easy.
I was delighted when the MHF chose mental well-being as the theme for this year's men's health week because I think that happiness is the most important aspect of our health.
Health isn't about jogging everyday or eating tons of vegetables or even about giving up smoking — although I'm sure all of these things will help —it's about feeling comfortable in your own skin. Being content with yourself. This one thing will considerably reduce your chances of having heart attacks, cancer or other major health problems. If — and when - you are affected by them, it will then help you cope with them a lot better than you would have otherwise. In the meantime, you'll get a lot more out of life.
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Page created on July 10th, 2006
Page updated on June 11th, 2013