Blog post -
NCC Conversations: Men’s mental health
As part of our NCC Conversations series, our colleague Mitch shares his experiences with his mental health to raise the important topic of men's mental health.
Author: Mitch Palmer
As a man in this society, you are told to 'man up' if you are ever feeling down. You are taught that you must constantly be strong and feel strong mentally, which for most of my child and teenage life I lived by and didn’t really give mental health a real thought and thought anyone claiming it was just exaggerating. (Lord was I wrong.)
Anyone who knew me growing up or even for anyone who knows me now will probably be shocked when they read this, but yes, I suffer with my mental health. Yes me, the guy who was always the first to crack a joke in school and aim to be the centre of attention. Yes me, the guy who was always on the football team or seen hanging around with the 'cool' kids. Yes me, the extrovert, the loud one in the room. I was always someone who was completely confident within myself and everything I was doing, and I would say someone who was on the complete other end of the spectrum when it came to feeling anxious or nervous.
In October 2021 I suffered from my first panic attack, so the feeling is still very raw and new to me. I was lying there on the bathroom floor thinking that I was going to die, thinking I was having a heart attack, unable to breathe. When I tried to stand, I couldn’t even walk without feeling faint. Later that day I drove myself home, heart still beating, hands and legs tingling, wondering what on earth was going on. I got home, went to bed, and in the morning I was still alive, completely well and healthy, so I continued with my day to day life…
Only, I didn’t. I started having this sensation on a day-to-day basis, doing simple things like going to the gym, the shops: even little day-to-day things that I took for granted I was struggling with, and I still didn’t know why–I thought I was seriously ill. However, I was asked to go to a game of football to watch Arsenal, which is something I would have usually loved to do and would have been excited about. But this time I was filled with dark thoughts about every little scenario and detail of what might or may not happen. I didn’t let it stop me and I went. Lo and behold, 45 minutes into the game, panic set in. I felt my heart racing and like I was going to pass out. I made a dart for the exit, struggled to get myself to the train station, but I did it and made my way home.
At this point I knew that I had to go to the doctor’s. One thing I haven't mentioned is I absolutely hate the doctor’s and what I now know which I didn’t when going through this is that I was struggling with health anxiety for quite a while. I was always worried as a kid about my health and always scared to go to the doctor’s as I was scared of learning that I wasn’t 100%. Anyway, I went and had my heart checked over, my bloods, everything. I received a call telling me, “you are in perfect health, Mr Palmer”. Me? Really? Are you sure? Convinced they had got it wrong, I went back in to discuss the issues I was having as I couldn’t make sense of them if I was in perfect health.
This day was the day that changed everything for me as I was told that I was most likely suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Yes me, the same kid who was the loudest in the room, the guy always on the football team–you get my drift by now.
I think what I am trying to get across is that anxiety, panic, and depression can literally live in any man’s mind, no matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, whether you play sports or you sing or dance or literally anything. This can and does affect men from all walks of life and it is okay to feel like this. It doesn’t make you any less of a man that you are dealing with the demons in your own mind.
I would like to start a conversation where men feel comfortable talking about their experiences with mental health. I want them to know that they are not alone: other people understand what they are going through.
We want NCC Group to be an environment where all colleagues feel psychologically, emotionally and physically safe to be authentic, representative of the diversity of the world they live in, share their personal experiences and have equal opportunity to achieve.
Through our NCC Conversations series we are opening up the dialogue and putting colleagues at the heart of our conversations and actions.