Finally – Men’s Mental Health is getting the oxygen of publicity

“Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today, oh how I wish he’d go away”.

Finally it seems men’s mental health is getting the oxygen of publicity. Some might think this will help the stigma of admitting to needing help – but I doubt it. Men are not good at admitting failure. We’d rather pretend it wasn’t there. But the trouble is the pressure can build until the top explodes into domestic abuse or even suicide.

Not before time this is being addressed and I was very pleased to see the Duke of Cambridge recently supporting CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably.

With all the hoo-hah about his brother Harry walking away from his royal duties, the publicity for this charity in January rather fell by the wayside. But for older men, social isolation and loneliness remains a growing problem. CALM’s CEO Simon Gunning:

We know support from friends can be invaluable and have a hugely positive effect on men’s wellbeing. Waning social connections and loneliness are a problem for men, especially over the age of 30. So CALM encourages a collaborative and connected approach to bring people together and provide sustained support from our mates. Building and maintaining connections with others can be genuinely life-saving”.

But is having a long term partner the answer? Is being married the solution to a happy, longer life? Pardon my cynicism but I’ve always thought this depends on who you’re married to.

After two failed marriages I’m consequently not sure. But I’m glad to finally be with someone who’s beyond all that and doesn’t need to sign a document. But some do.

At the age of 90, Ken Dodd married his long time partner Anne Jones two days before he died to ensure his wealth was inherited by her and not the taxman. Doddy preferred stuffing his cash under the mattress rather than giving it to the government – and ended up in court for it.

He won his case and Anne can now live comfortably in their Knotty Ash home. They had the celebrated lawyer George Carman QC to thank for this. Carman described Dodd as “a fantasist stamped with lifelong eccentricities”. Despite this she always forgave him – and he loved her for it.

I do silly things too which make my partner smile. She has come to realise that at any moment I can take a boring or potentially embarrassing moment and with a look make it funny. What creases her is when little things go wrong and I bugger it up. Suddenly all her worries evaporate in a fit of laughter and it does my heart good to see her smile again as she has suffered so much.

From Plato, Aristotle and Confucius to Ruby Wax, Eddy Izzard and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, they would all tell you the essence of tickling anyone’s funny-bone comes from juxtaposing very different things in the same place.

I’ve long been a fan of the wonderful Joyce Grenfell. Her witty sketches, songs and monologues were a joy. So when the former shadow Home Secretary Anne Widdecome was on Strictly, Joyce was in my head singing “Stately as a Galleon”.

Humour between the sexes has always been an attractive trait. For men, making a woman laugh has been one of the keys to the bedroom. How many times have I seen that requirement listed in women’s lonely hearts columns? That dates me.

Sometimes my charms have no effect. Every weapon in my arsenal fails to penetrate their armour. Why is this? After six decades I’ve come to the conclusion it’s because I’m seen differently through the lens of their previous experiences. To be blunt other men have queered my patch.  

Quite possibly this works the other way round. Have other previous women coloured men’s opinions you had first contact with?

Here’s a question many men would like to know. Why do we need to make you smile to get you to like us? In some previous dating scenarios I’ve felt like a Bower bird in a David Attenborough documentary. We are not performers. Most of us cannot remember jokes, play instruments or even turn up on time. We are flawed. We get marks down our jumpers. Our sock draw is a disaster. We hoard. We ignore you whilst we watch sport (Cont.P96).

And we get things spectacularly wrong.

I was recently in trouble big time for booking a comedy gig on my partner’s birthday without looking at my diary first. I blew it big time. I’ll make it up to her.

The strange thing is messing things up sometimes seems to be a part of the attraction. How many times have I heard this at the police station?

“Why do you want to retract your statement?”

“I love him really”.

In my partner’s heart is forgiveness. So much of it. She has it in the kind of abundance I have rarely discovered in anyone and forgives me on a regular basis. A rare quality in anyone. In response I say sorry easily. It comes pouring out of me, we hug and consequently I cannot do enough for her.  

As a result my mental health is good. Well, as good as it can be considering I was always somewhat unhinged to begin with.

Today I got a thank-you card from my brother’s daughter Isabella. How many 20 year olds send a card in the post? It’s on my mantlepiece as I write and has quite made my day.

Women have an amazing ability to positively affect men and their mental well-being. It doesn’t take much. A thoughtful note, a caring smile or some gentle guidance is all it takes from you to make a big difference. Not just to the man in your life but to all the decent guys you meet and interact with.

Oh, and if you could do it with style that would be very good.

As Joyce would say “George. Don’t do that”.

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