It seems to me that’s it’s become a bit of a platitude to say that people experiencing mental ill health should just “ask for help” or that friends should “check on their mates”. It comes from a good place, but with nearly 8 out of 10 suicides being men, and the tragedy of young men in particular completing suicide, asking the right questions really can be a matter of life or death.
The idea of asking, and then asking again, is an important one – but ‘Are you ok?’ can easily be batted away with a ‘yes’. ‘How are you?’ can easily be met with ‘Oh I’m fine’. We need to think more creatively about how we ask people we care about to open up to us.
Maybe for this International Men’s Day and beyond, we can ask open questions like these…
•Why don’t you fancy coming for a drink? What are you going to do tonight instead?
• I’ve noticed you’re drinking/getting on it/sleeping a lot more – what’s brought this on?
• How are you feeling since you changed job/moved away/lost someone/ended a relationship?
• You don’t seem your usual self, what’s changed?
• Who have you got to talk to/support you apart from me?
• I know you’ve been doing really well since you were last struggling but I just wanna check on you and ask – how are things these days?
What questions do you think we need to ask each other? And what questions would you want someone to ask you, to convince you to open up and accept support when you least feel like it? What questions do you wish you’d asked someone you’ve lost?