As some of you know, I am supporting Movember, the annual effort to raise funds and awareness for men's health issues. The focus is on prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health issues.
It's the latter which I've had issues with, and is the the reason I support Movember - particularly this year, when we're all feeling issues of isolation.
Movember have shared some notes on mental health and suicide prevention here. What I'd like to flag is ALEC.
ALEC is a mnemonic which provides a model for 'talking to your mates about mental health'. It's a handly primer for raising this difficult issue with anyone you might be concerned with
A - Ask. Ask how they are feeling. "You don't seem yourself lately - are you OK?" Be prepared for the answer "I'm fine" and to bring up the reason you ask. If you've noticed something in particular (they've been withdrawn, haven't been as active on social media, etc) it's worth mentioning.
L - Listen. Having asked the question, give the person the chance to answer and pay attention to the reply. Odds are that you're not going to solve the problems that they raise, but it will help them to share them with someone else. Ask follow-up questions that might help the person to focus on what's at the root of the issue. "That's can't be easy. How long have you felt that way?"
E - Encourage. Encourage action. Help them focus on things that might help. Have they felt like this in the past? If so, was there anything that helped then? It might help to get back into a routine despite lockdown - patterns of sleep are particularly important. Are there other people that they trust and who they can talk to? Is it time to talk to a doctor?
C - Check-In. Having had the initial conversation, keep in touch and follow-up with prompts if necessary.
And before anyone asks, "I'm fine". I've found winter lockdown more difficult than the one earlier in the year (which, I must admit to quite enjoying), but my mental state is OK.
I'm getting out of the house most days and am in contact with people through social media. As those who follow the blog know, I'm getting quite a lot of on-line RPG gaming done. Like a lot of gamers, I've really discovered the benefits of Discord, Zoom, et al this year. I'm getting more oportunities for gaming now than ever before. And as we all know, gaming is good for mental health. Of course, I miss sitting down at a table and playing face-to-face, but I've made contact with a lot of new people and do really enjoy the sessions I take part in.
Thank you for reading this. If anyone wants to contribute to my Movember fundraiser, you can do so here.