To admit to a mental health problem is to lose face: I stand by my choice to write about mine, but I still wince inwardly every time I tell someone what I've been writing about. It's hardly surprising that so many people fail to get the help they need: to get the help they have to ask for it; to ask for it, they have to admit to the problem; to admit to the problem is to risk losing face, in their own eyes and in other people's.

I had it relatively easy. First of all, I'm a freelance writer, a poet, and as such I didn't have a responsible job to lose, or any further job opportunities to miss out on, if the truth were known. Secondly, I'm a woman, and women are allowed to talk about their feelings, allowed to show their vulnerability.           

It's not like that for boys. I read this article today:

I'd like to draw your attention to the following lines:

'The Mental Health Foundation reports that more than one person in ten suffers from a form of depression in a single year, but that men are less likely to seek help and three times more likely to commit suicide.'

This hit home to me, because I lost a very close male relative to suicide. Unlike me, he had a high-powered job, and worked in a competitive, hierarchical setting. He was a man living in main-stream society, and as such he lacked the cultural space in which he could talk publicly about his problems, to seek help from his superiors, to take the time he needed to heal.

We need to make this space, and to hold it open, for men as well as women - for all of us - and the best way to do this is to keep speaking up. Lives, and families, depend on it.

About the Author

Joanne Limburg

Joanne Limburg is an award-winning writer whose memoir, The Woman Who Thought Too Much, explores her life with OCD.

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