Saturday, 25 June 2016

This is Important

So a little while back you may remember I wrote about my new Happiness Planner. And while that's all well and good for us girls (like many I am a fan of anything pink and gold, pretty stationery and paperclips) what about the guys? While girls have never seemed to have a problem adhering to the 1960's gender stereotypes of writing a "Dear Diary" entry with their hair up in rollers and reading Jackie magazine, historically for guys it has been a different story. Which is why this is so important.

I am of the opinion that guys struggle to talk about their "feelings" and many actively avoid doing it in any way shape or form like the plague. But as mental health awareness grows it has brought to the forefront of the public's attention that men too suffer with depression, anxiety and, believe it or not, the same mental health problems that women face. Crazy right?! Hardly. 

Ollie Aplin, the man behind Mind Journal believed that men needed an outlay for their thoughts just as much as women do. And why not? As life has got increasingly hectic, working days have got longer and the rat race goes on, there are more and more reasons why people feel stressed, anxious and yes, at some point in their lives, depressed. The charity Mind says that 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with a mental health problem every single year ranging from obsessive compulsive disorder to anorexia, and statistics from the Men's Health Forum show that just over 3 out of 4 suicides are by men (76%). 12.5% of men in the UK are believed to be suffering from a common mental health disorder and men are three times more likely than women to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Pretty shocking stuff.

Enter Ollie, and his slick new journal designed and made exclusively for men. The Mind Journal has arrived. And every last detail has been planned, designed and delivered with men in mind. 

Discrete, compact and concealable inside the tri-fold case, the Mind Journal is designed to help men express what's going on up there by asking insightful questions that actually encourage them to think about the way they feel and put it down on paper. As a diary keeper myself I know that this can sometimes take practice. Writing is an art form and it doesn't always come naturally to people. That's why the first half the book is committed to helping the user get into the mind-set of writing with small activities and prompts to help the thought process flow. The second half of the book is where the user has free reign to actually start keeping a journal, after a baptism into the world of writing throughout the first half. 

This isn't just another exercise in navel-gazing. One of my biggest bugbears is when people say things like; "All you ever think about is your mental illness" or "It's all in your head". Cos, yeah, it's almost like it's a mental illness isn't it? And in my opinion if having a medium to get those things out of your head and somewhere tangible where you can make sense of them helps, then crack on and do it.

Ollie himself had a difficult time growing up. Losing his mum to suicide, Ollie struggled for a long time with anxiety, panic attacks and eventually a break down. He says that the two things that helped him through it all was being able to ask for help, and writing in a journal. A study in the late 1980's by Psychologist James Pennebaker showed that those who wrote down their thoughts and feelings were more able to handle emotionally stressful situations and cope with past traumas better than those who didn't. In layman's terms, regardless of gender, age, and whether or not you actually suffer with some kind of mental ill health, writing things down is good for you.

The way I see it, in the name of equality, the stigma surrounding men with mental health problems needs to be lifted. Men need to ask for help. They need to write things down. They need to let go of their burdens. Ollie has made a groundbreaking move to achieve this end with the Mind Journal. Personally I couldn't wait to get my mitts on this to share it with you. I cannot bang the drum enough when it comes to encouraging men to speak out and seek help as many women do. It's not weak, and it's not new either. This gap in the market has been there since the dawn of time. We were just a little slow on the uptake. 

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