Boys Don't Cry - Mens Mental Health04/11/2019, Alan Dollan
Alan Dolan, founder of Breathguru® explains the importance of acknowledging men's mental health issues and how breathwork could be the new solution.
As we become more aware of the importance of taking responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, the area of mental health is increasingly in the spotlight. Never before has there been so much focus on this key area and one of the factors which is becoming ever more evident is the disparity between men and women in mental health terms. It is now common knowledge that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 years of age in the UK and in the US men are nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than females. If we look further into the issue of suicide we learn that this is not a modern-day phenomenon. On the contrary, men have long been at higher risk of suicide than their female counterparts. Why is this and how can we address it?
The problem arises at least in part due to the fact that men have been taught from a very young age that it is weak to express emotion or show any sign of vulnerability. The ethos of “big boys don’t cry” or “man up” when added to the ´stiff upper lip´ has disastrous and all too often fatal results. The only apparent emotion which is deemed acceptable for men seems to be anger which is often associated with masculinity and power.
The result is a generation of boys and men who, whilst suffering the same trauma, anxiety and depression as women, believe that is not okay to express their true feelings or admit that they are in need of support. Not surprisingly, if they aren´t encouraged to seek help within their family or per group then, it is highly unlikely they would feel comfortable asking for professional help. Whilst the use of anti-depressants has increased more than 100% in the last decade statistics show that there are twice as many women as men being prescribed anti-depressants to cope with these escalating mental health issues. Instead, it seems that men are more likely to “self-medicate” as a way of dealing with these trapped emotions (Over 70% of people receiving treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in the UK are men) or even more tragically resort to taking their own lives as a last resort.
In my own case I lived with depression from the onset of puberty until the age of 40. Frankly, I was so disconnected that I wasn’t even aware I was living with depression. I just knew that on certain days I needed to stay in bed and even something as mundane as answering the phone was about as likely as the chances of me climbing Everest. Looking back, I can see exactly why it occurred. A mentally ill and abusive parent combined with a familial dynamic built on denial and secrecy ensured that I was ill-equipped and unsupported in dealing with what I was experiencing. With puberty came the horrifying realisation that I was gay which when added into what was already happening really ´sealed the deal´. As a working-class young man of Irish descent living in a very close-knit community in the north of England being gay was considered at best shameful and at worst a perversion destined to cause problems and angst for everyone involved. Unfortunately knowing no better I bought into the whole thing. I learned to keep schtum and to disconnect as often as possible via sleep, distraction and addiction in a well-intentioned but ultimately futile attempt to quell my feelings.
My lifeline came in the form of Yoga which helped me begin the process of reconnecting with myself. Subsequently, I discovered Breathwork which enabled me to process the decades of suppressed emotion I´d carried with me through the years. During my first ever Breathwork session I realised that what I´d been experiencing was in fact depression. This missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle falling into place led me to practice daily from that point onwards and after many tears and innumerable boxes of Kleenex I realised I was out the other end and the depression appeared to be history.
Delighted and somewhat shocked to discover that there was a way to heal what I´d seen as something insurmountable I wanted to share the good news hence training as a Breath Coach and establishing Breathguru in 2004. A lot has changed since the early days when Breathwork wasn’t really in the zeitgeist to 2019 when the ´Breatholution is in full swing, bang in the middle of the pantheon of complementary modalities.
A significant number of clients that I work with present with either anxiety or depression or both. The proportion of female / male clients is changing in that these days as many more men are prepared to seek assistance. The fact that Breathwork can be ´content free ´ is often seen as a plus by clients who are ´therapied out´ or those that are not (initially at least) comfortable with discussing the content of their life journey.
What I´m seeing overall is that individuals experience significant benefits almost immediately from initiating their own daily breathwork practice due to the fact that Breathwork is led by the body (i.e. we are following the body´s lead) rather than the more traditional cognitively-led talk therapies. Most of us need to speak our truth and be heard in that truth but having done that we need to go into the body and actually engage with and process those emotions which didn’t get processed first time around. This is where Breathwork comes into its own.
With health budgets being slashed, the amount of mental health support that’s available to communities is decreasing which is both ironic and tragic in that the need for this support has never been greater. Our solution has been to use technology in the form the Breathguru App order to reach those in need but who may be geographically and /or financially isolated. In a little under two years we have touched many more people than we could have imagined all of whom are benefitting from the video tutorials and guided breath sessions within.
Breath is life. It´s really that simple and that profound. It’s the foundation of who we are and provides a great base from which to work towards greater health on all levels of our being.
Enjoy your journey and Happy Breathing!
About The Author
|Alan Dolan, founder of Breathguru® and breath coach, has spent 15 years changing people’s lives (not least his own) with the simple power of breathing. A series of happy coincidences led him to Lanzarote at which point he realised that he was ‘home’. Breathguru® Retreats and breathguru.com were born, with Alan’s key message being that YOU are the guru and your breath is the key. Alan has gone on to gain a wealth of experience in working with the breath and continues to be based in Lanzarote or as he prefers to call it, ‘The Magic Island’.|
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