Asking for a Friend: Help! How do I discuss depression and mental health as a guy?

  • This week we talk about getting professional help from a counsellor, underage drinking, peer pressure and making friends
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help you
Amalissa Hall |
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Hi Friend
I’ve been depressed lately because of things going on at home and at school, but I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else, so I’m keeping it to myself.

I feel like I’m being fake around my friends and family. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but it feels weird to get emotional and open up to someone about what I’m feeling.

What should I do?
Thanks, Fake It Till I Make It

Hello Fake It I’m sorry to hear that you are depressed. It can’t be easy, but acknowledging this about yourself, and wanting to make a change, is a huge step.

It is crucial that you know that, just because you don’t talk about your emotions often, doesn’t mean they’re not valid, or that people don’t think you feel things. It’s also important to know that all boys and men have feelings!

It can be difficult to share, but you are not alone. You are not a burden to others, and people are more willing to help you than you might think.

Don’t let unhelpful thoughts such as unfairly blaming yourself, rule your life

The best option is to see your school’s counsellor or a professional therapist. They will be discreet, you will get an unbiased opinion – after all, they are trained to deal with your problems in a helpful way. Alternatively, if making an appointment is too nerve-racking, call a youth counselling hotline. The hardest part is taking that first step to open up, but once you do, you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.

It’s also good to open up to a friend or family member. But if speaking to someone close to you feels awkward, try writing down what you feel in a journal. Literally write down everything you’re thinking and feeling, and see if you can arrange them in a way that makes them clearer or less worrying.

It’s unconventional, but you could also try to create a flow chart of your feelings. For example, X happened, which makes you feel like Y, and as a result you are doing Z. Logically looking at your problems may help you find a solution.

Is your quest for perfection leading to depression and low self-esteem?

If you’re a creative person, could you translate these feelings into art, film, writing or music? Sometimes the most amazing things come out of moments of pain, and the process will be therapeutic for you and take your mind off your problems.

Exercise is also a great way to direct your mind elsewhere, plus it boosts you with endorphins, which can help you feel more positive about a situation.

The bottom line is that speaking to someone and sharing your feelings will ultimately improve your situation, and you may find a solution. I know you’ve expressed discomfort about speaking to your loved ones, but you should know that they are more likely to help you than reject or ignore you.

Everyone has felt low at some point in their life, so remember that, and believe that they may have had similar experiences and can give you advice on how to move forward.
Best of luck, Friend of a Friend

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Dear Friend of a Friend
I’m in my final year of secondary school and everyone around me seems to be partying and drinking. I’m not that into that scene, but I’m worried I’ll be left out if I don’t participate.

I’m going to university soon, and I feel like if I don’t join the parties and drink now, I’ll miss out later and make it harder for myself to make friends. Should I just give in and try it out?
Thanks, Late Bloomer

Hi Late This is a great time of life to start being true to yourself, and doing what you want to do, not what other people say is cool. Honestly, if you don’t want to drink alcohol, don’t do it. If you’re not interested in it or comfortable with doing it, don’t! Your true friends will respect your decision, and still invite you to events.

University is more than just parties. Yes, there is a social aspect to meeting new people during freshers’ week (depending on where you’re going) that often involves drinking, or at least being in a bar or club, but you will also meet people when you join clubs, societies or sports teams – and not all those activities will necessarily involve alcohol. Don’t forget that you will also meet people in your classes!

Expert tips on dealing with peer pressure

You’ll find more like-minded people at university than you think – plenty of whom don’t drink, for many different reasons.

You can ask your parents if they experienced anything similar when they were your age, and how they dealt with it. But you’re old enough – and given the fact you wrote this letter, secure enough in yourself – not to give in to peer pressure, and stick to what you think is right for you! Real friends will respect you for that.
Hope that helps, Friend of a Friend

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Dear Friend
I started a new school last year, but I still feel like a new student, even though I’ve been in online and physical school for a whole year now. I feel embarrassed because I only know about half of my classmates’ names, and I don’t seem to belong to any particular group.

My classmates have been nothing but kind to me all this time, but I feel stuck because it’s so awkward when I try to talk to people who I don’t know very well. I’ve been joining new clubs and taking part in more activities, but it’s not working very well.

I would really like some advice on how I can be more sensitive to social cues or get to know my classmates better, even during online class.
Not So New

Hi Not So This year has been particularly difficult for everyone, especially in terms of socialising. It can’t be easy trying to connect with strangers via video chat only, so you’re not exactly in an easy position. Now that you’re back at school, you should definitely make more of an effort to speak to your classmates.

Get to know their names first of all! Make small talk between classes or walk with someone to your next class.

Speak to whichever classmate you feel you know best, and be honest about feeling a bit awkward, or not knowing many people as you’d like to. I’m sure they’d be willing to introduce you to their group, or to others in the class. It’s especially good to ask if you can sit together during lunch, which is a great time to socialise and learn about the people around you.

It’s important to maintain friendships by continuing conversations, whether in person or online. Ask simple questions about lessons, or make a remark about something that happened during class.

I really need help with focus – how do I stop procrastinating?

Through these interactions you’ll establish connections. Read social cues by looking at their replies. If the other person is not extending the conversation, that’s a way of saying they’re not that interested, so don’t persist. If your conversation goes on for ages, then you know they will be a friend.

Good on you for taking the initiative to join clubs, but know that joining a group doesn’t automatically mean friendship. You need to speak to other members first – they might not necessarily approach the “new kid”.

One easy way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know is to give a compliment: it shows you are interested in talking to them, and whatever you pick to praise is a topic to discuss.

Another way to connect with your peers is to bring in something to eat. “Hey, my mum made too many cookies, I brought them to share” goes down pretty well with most people!

It will take a bit of time, but just keep having conversations with lots of different people. The more you talk, the more things you’ll learn you have in common, and the more people will want to revisit conversations another time.
You’ve got this, Friend of a Friend

This column is here to answer all your difficult or embarrassing questions about being a teenager. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to overcome particular situations at home, school, in your social lives or even in the animal kingdom, our “Friend of a Friend” is an expert to help provide answers for you!

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