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World Mental Health Day: A Conversation with Tom Truman

By FLlj 14 Oct 2020

It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week had experiences with mental health problems and it can effect both staff and students equally.

This World Mental Health Day, we wanted to 'practice what we preach' in regards to opening up the conversation about mental health. Residence Life Assistant, Suzanna, interviewed Tom regarding opening up about mental health, see the conversation below.


1) Mental health is a difficult topic and people may not know how to bring it up in conversation, do you have any advice about how someone may take the first step?

Seeking and talking about your mental health is often the first and hardest step towards getting or even staying well, however it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to. It's usual to feel uncertain, and to think whether you should try to handle things by yourself. Just remember it's ALWAYS ok to ask for help, no one is immune to asking for help. There is no one size fits all approach, just remember there are lots of good people waiting to listen and to help.

2) If someone is feeling really alone who can they reach out to talk to?

It may feel there aren’t any people to talk to but the reality is there are lots of people and options for support out there - although you might find some are more suitable or better for you, or even more easily available. As I said before there is no one size fits all plan to mental health or order to try things in. You can speak to your GP at your local practice, you could speak to a trained therapist, you could speak to friends, family, there are local charities such as Calm, Young Minds and many others. At University there is the mental health and wellbeing team and there are number of FutureLets staff that are mental health first aid staff including the ResLife team that can help too!

3) There are lots of stereotypes about men and being strong, and whilst everyone struggles with mental health sometimes men feel more reserved about talking about their feelings. What can you say about your mental health experience as a male and what advice would you give to other men about talking about their experiences? 

I think gender stereotypes and societal expectations of men and people are generally changing for the good, but there is a lot more work to be done. I think the stereotypes of men being dominant, hunter-gatherers, breadwinners and being emotionally switched off to be strong is TOXIC.

Stereotypically some people might not find me to be the most open about mental health as I am covered in tattoo’s, go to the gym and love going to the football with the lads. I have no problem to talk to someone when I need some help and still find some days incredibly tough. It has got easier to share over time and finding out the people that I am comfortable sharing with. Personally, I think it can show much more ‘strength’ to say I haven’t got it all together, and I need some help than perhaps many other things that are seen as ‘masculine’. In my experience the more you talk about things, the easier it gets to share!

4) Do you have a self-care routine or anything you do to look after wellbeing and mental health? 

Great question, firstly do what makes you happy. I personally love spending time with my girlfriend, friends, family and my cat. I love the escapism of following my football team, relaxing whilst carp fishing and going to the gym - the best self-care is doing the things you love with the people you love.

Perhaps a more controversial view is that I took the decision to delete my Instagram and Facebook because I think it was not positive for my mental health and I felt it was not adding much value to my life. I appreciate some people will say that there are good things about certain social media such as self-expression, self-identity, community building, and emotional support. However I found those apps had a negative impact on my body image, sleep and felt it was a competition for gratification with other people for likes or follows.

Maybe as advice think about what social media works for you and whether you are happy with the apps that you are using?

5) Some people may have noticed a change in their friend or loved one, do you have any advice about talking to someone else about their mental health?

Don’t delay, just speak to them about it. People have off days or rubbish weeks but you reaching out to them might make all the difference. They may not be ready to talk about it or not even realise their behavior has changed but just be there for them when they are ready to talk.

6) In your interview you spoke about kindness which is the theme of Mental Health Awareness week this year, how can we be more kind in our everyday lives?

It’s nice to be nice isn’t it? The world is divisive and often people are famous or infamous for having polarising opinions that pull people apart. Imagine how much nicer the world would be if everyone was a little kinder. When we may have something in our minds to say and it isn’t kind, remember to choose kindness before speaking or even typing. It is not weakness to choose kindness. 

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