with a little help from Ruby 
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Words by Tony Talbot

Determined, strong, brave, resourceful, protective and dependable hunter-gatherers; I am sure we blokes of a certain age could pick out a few of these words to describe ourselves, yes? How about such words as vulnerable, worried, scared, unsure, compromised, anxious, disturbed, distressed and upset. What about these, do any of them resonate?

 

We at fiftyfiveUP care about our readership and I find it quite scary that in this so-called enlightened age, far too many men over 55 still seem to feel there is a stigma attached to depression and anxiety, viewing them as weaknesses or character flaws rather than a genuine health condition. They are hesitant to share their experiences of anxiety and depression with others, often ignoring symptoms over long periods of time and only seeking professional help when things reach a crisis point, and in some cases, too late!

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Ruby , Ruby, Ruby, Ruby!

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We have to talk more about things that really matter other than football and weather

I would be interested to know of your experiences. How many of you out there have ever had one of your male acquaintances confide in you regarding the problems they were having emotionally. Has a friend or colleague ever bared their soul to you in confidence. If so, have you felt equipped to help them or at least point them in the right direction?

 

I had a friend Jonathan who was a little older than me, I would have been about 50 at the time.  Our families spent quite a bit of time together and Jon was always the life and soul although his wife did confess to me that on occasion he could be quite moody and introverted when not in company. Ten years, almost to the day after I first shook his hand during a business meeting, Jonathan took an overdose and died. To this day none of us, including his family and relatives know why he killed himself.

 

Jonathan, God rest him is a significant part of why I have over the past few months been spending quite a bit of time attempting to learn about certain aspects of mental illness and in particular the Black Dog of depression. The other reason for my research is down to my discovery of the significant number of retired men who suffer from depression without asking for help. During my investigations it was pure coincidence that I saw a programme with Ruby Wax some nights ago talking about the same subject matter and associated stigma of mental health. It inspired me to look at a presentation of hers on You Tube a week later which then led to me putting together this editorial piece. However, more of Ruby later.


Just to put a bit of “meat” on the proverbial “bone;” depression is frighteningly common throughout the UK population, and older people are more likely to experience contributing factors such as physical illness or personal loss than most others. A UK Government report in 2017 states that nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55+ say they have experienced depression and around the same number (7.3 million) have suffered with anxiety.

This only reveals part of the problem as these figures are considered to be conservative with many men not reporting the pain they are going through. 

Of course, when us older types were growing up, society in general didn't recognise anxiety or depression as a health condition. It is a terrible thing to admit but I thought for many years that it was only something women experienced. I know from listening to my Dad's mates when I was younger that the disease was seen very much of a weakness, so you can totally understand why we as the older generation , having being indoctrinated in such a way, find it uncomfortable to discuss. 

Maybe another reason for the 'non-acceptance' is that depression is something you cannot physically see, which brings us back round to Ruby. As she describes it, there is no break, bump or bruise so no validation to outsiders or friends that there is anything wrong so men don't say anything for fear of people thinking they are exaggerating or "making it up".

 

Will we as a generation change in our attitude to getting help with our mental health problems or shall we just leave it to the younger ones who, as recent reports suggest ,  find it far easier to ask for support?

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As I say, I am not an expert on mental illness, emotional anxiety, or anything else to do with the brain and associated states of mind. That said, my growing experience tells me that there are many, many people that can help talk you through mental health issues if you feel you need it. Age UK and MIND are just a couple, and their details can be found on the home page of this publication. 

Whether you love her or hate her, please have a look at the following Ruby Wax Presentation and leave your thoughts below. We would dearly love to hear from you.

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/ruby_wax_what_s_so_funny_about_mental_illness

Those of us who put fiftyfiveUP editorial together are not health experts or medical practitioners. If you believe you have a problem whether physical or mental, please seek help from healthcare professionals. If you want to drop us a line or leave a comment, please do. We are always here to try and help point you in the right direction.