Diary of Youth Worker Chris from hY NRG
Every Friday and Saturday night, the boys would come together at a night club and enjoy a big night drinking, with the hope that when they woke the following morning they would not be hung over and fine to play. Why we went out all night the night before a game was beyond me, but those were the times.
Sunday, game day would arrive and everyone would still be talking about the previous night’s events, most of the time we weren’t too hung-over or drunk and would manage to get through the game The club had been part of my life for as long as I could remember. My dad was the club’s president, and soccer was a second home.
Now things were different. My father was in hospital, on life support, suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome . People would always ask me,’ How’s your dad doing? Has he made any progress?’ Whether it was before or after the game, it didn’t matter, it was nice to know people cared about my father, but it was the last thing I wanted to talk about.
The only time I felt comfortable enough to talk about it was on a Friday or Saturday night on the way home after many drinks. This was the only time I felt I could open up about how I was feeling, how I was doing. I didn’t want the boys to think I was soft, a sook or even worse, seeking attention.
Why do men find it so hard to open up and ask for help? How do you make someone understand what you are going through?
So the cycle continued, Friday night would come, I would waste another 100 odd dollars or so on alcohol and then do it again on the Saturday night. Alcohol and keeping busy were my escapes. I could ignore what was going on, or at least not think about it. However, after a few drinks the topic would come up somehow, eventually I would get emotional, talk about my father and become what I feared most, a sook.
Why is it a man is labelled a sook or soft if they get upset?
The truth is, I would love to be able to talk to my dad. I missed not being able to talk to him, get his opinion about the footy, soccer, life. It was very hard to communicate with my father for 7-8 months whilst he was in the intensive care unit. In any case I felt guilty heaping my problems on him when he was so helpless himself, he had enough going on already, he didn’t need the extra stress with my issues.
Eventually, my drinking and erratic moods become too much for some mates to handle. One of my closest mates at the time become distant, I hardly heard from him now and when I asked if something was up he said there wasn’t and made me feel like I was losing my mind. Eventually he and a few other mates no longer spoke to me.
Life went on. I stopped going out and drinking every Friday and Saturday night, my mind started to clear, my father started making some progress, although his life would never be the same again. Neither would my mother or my families for that fact.
Two and a half years later my father’s road to recovery continues, but he has risen above and beyond a level doctors had ever thought he would reach. My life has changed too, I’m now a youth worker, working with young people in an out of home care program , looking after young people who are Parental Responsibility to the Minister.
Despite all I’ve seen and learned for me the question remains, why do men, young or old, find it so hard to ask for help? From my short career in youth work and as a carer, it has become clear to me that men want the problem solved for them or the answers to be given to them, rather than seek professional help.
How can we relate to our friends issues? How can we support our friends through mental health issues?
According to recent statistics suicide is the leading cause of death in young people, with a higher rate than road traffic incidents. Young men are three times more likely to complete suicide, but less likely to seek help.).
When a friend opens up and talks to you about their problems it is likely they have been thinking over this for some time before they come to you.
Why don’t guys talk about how they feel?
I personally found it hard and uncomfortable to talk about how I felt when my father was in hospital. I didn’t really allow myself to process the circumstances me and my family were in. I tried to ignore reality by going out with my friends, that and soccer was my release. But in general, I think men find it uncomfortable to talk about their feeling, men don’t want to show their weaknesses, there’s a perception a strong person doesn’t let their feelings known.
What not to say
- Get over it
- Toughen up
- Don’t worry about it
What can you do to make sure your friend is doing ok?
It’s the small thing that can mean the most, a phone call, a text message or making them feel comfortable, and asking what’s going on. Open the space for conversation and just be there to listen to your friend. You are not expected to have give advice, to have all the answers, that’s where the professionals come in, you’re just there for support and encourage them to seek help.
It’s difficult to understand when things are going your way, but it’s important to confront your problems whilst they are small, before they start to take over your life. The earlier you get help from a professional the more likely it is to be beneficial and help get you back to ’normal’.
What can you do to encourage your mate to get help?
- Reassure them that if they seek help, things will get better
- Encourage them to speak to someone with a bit more experience, knowledge or life experience, e.g. footy coach, teacher, mentor
- Listen to them and support them
- Encourage them to seek professional help
The main thing is to stick by your mates, don’t just turn your back and walk away like some of my friends did.
The truth is no one needs to battle depression on their own, there is help out there. Seeking help will assist you or your friend to deal with the problems and return to normal life.
You can also check out this how are your mates going? video that deals with the issue.