Let’s also remember to break the stigma around men’s mental health this Pride Month
Looking back, I know my parents didn’t mean anything bad. Their lives were affected by becoming refugees in their mid-twenties due to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. So I understand why my parents couldn’t understand why their son, who was born in London with all the privileges they didn’t have, couldn’t just be happy.
But that’s just it, that’s the nature of sanity – it doesn’t ask or care what external privileges you have. It doesn’t discriminate that way.
My battles were intensified by the internalized battle I had with my multifaceted identities, including being LGBTQ+. I was coming to terms with being a man and what it meant in our society and being bisexual, my faith and my heritage all at once.
In research conducted by Just Like Us, it was found that LGBTQ+ youth are three times more likely to self-harm, they are also twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks and s worry about their mental health on a daily basis.
I ended up treating Panic Disorder, Depersonalization Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder on my own for 10 years before seeking medical help. It’s because those phrases I mentioned – “man-up”, “grow some balls”, and “stop acting like a girl” – were perpetually ringing in my ears, clouding my mind and judgment.
The cultural pressures and social shame really stuck with me. I still remember my mother telling me not to tell anyone what I was going through. Although she never explained to me why, I know it had to do with the continued culture of shame around men discussing their emotions and mental health within my culture.
But despite all these challenges, I got the help I needed, even though it wasn’t a linear process. NHS mental health services were and are seriously underfunded, but I sincerely believe I wouldn’t be here without them.
The help I received from therapists who approached me as a person and not as an expectation, allowed me to express, clarify and vocalize what I had held inside for so long.
In addition to Pride, the month of June marks men’s mental health awareness, a time to represent the issues men face in terms of emotional and mental well-being. As I have experienced, there is a real need to be more inclusive and intersectional in our approach to mental health.
If you are having difficulty, please contact Switchboard or Samaritans. Don’t let these societal expectations put you to shame – I’m so glad I reached out and hope you are too.
Arbër volunteers at Just Like Us. Donate to support LGBTQ+ youth this pride.