It was a day full of anticipation, full of excitement and of the unknown.
When you hear about TED, your mind immediately gets drawn to all kinds of images, big crowds, the Madonna mic, the red circle, hard-hitting and inspiring talks. TEDx Glasgow had it all and it was such a joy and an honour to have been a part of it.
Speaking is one of those things that I have a strange connection with. I’ve always been a good communicator when academic performances were poor growing up, I was always able to communicate well with others. There is something about speaking in front of large groups that causes huge anxiety but also creates enormous excitement.
I suppose in some ways it’s like the person that does ultra marathons. We might think that it’s terrifying, anxiety-provoking and gut-wrenching, the person that does the ultra marathon would probably agree, but they are still going to sign up for the next one.
I feel similarly with regards to speaking, I love it, I love the buzz and the anticipation. If I’m honest, I love the idea of communicating expertise and knowledge to a group of willing ears.
This passion for speaking and my passion for mental health and especially men’s mental health drew me to TEDx Glasgow. With over 2,000 people in attendance, it’s one of the biggest TEDx platforms on earth.
It was a number of months of applying and going through different rounds of the application process, finally hearing that I had been accepted as a speaker a few months before the talk.
I was immediately assigned a coach who was incredible and who I met with each week. We discussed the topic of my talk, The Male Identity Crisis. We looked at the message I wanted to convey and how I would manage this in just 8 minutes.
This was unlike any talk I had ever given before. I had to do more than just communicate research and empirical findings, I had to illustrate my story and discuss why this topic was so important to me.
I was anxious about memorising my script. It was 8 minutes long and I had no idea how I was going to memorise all the words and sentences that my coach and I had so painstakingly gone through with a fine-tooth comb. My dyslexia means that its really difficult for me to absorb the written word at times. As a result, I decided to create some illustrations of my talk notes.
This has always been helpful for me, rather than memorising words, I could memorise the images and remember what words I needed to say when each image popped up in my mind.
You can check out those images below here:
Men’s mental health is not only the main focus of my research on my counselling psychology doctorate, but it is also my passion. The fact that 78% of all suicides are completed by men, that 84 men a week take their own lives and that only one-third of the population of people in therapy are men.
The statistics are staggering and for me, one of the biggest contributing factors to the epidemic of men’s mental health and suicide is male identity and how we view men.
The way that men are viewed in society today, with what I think ha an element of a predatory nature, is the biggest component of men’s mental illness and male suicide I feel. In many ways, men are now encouraged to be vulnerable, to talk about how they feel and to seek help. However, at the same time, men are still expected to adhere to stereotypical masculine norms like being autonomous, not showing emotion and never asking for help.
It’s this conflicting identity that I feel leads to this male identity crisis and ultimately to men’s mental illness and male suicide.
The day finally arrived and it brought with it everything I had come to stereotypically associate with TED events. Massive crowds, the TED logo everywhere, art and different types of performers. It was amazing and difficult to not get drawn into the anxiety that came with speaking on such a platform.
I was keen to be around people as much as possible, I’m not someone that finds massive benefit in isolated moments during such anxious times. I spoke to family members and friends and chatted to volunteers in the green room.
I checked out a couple of the talks from some of the other amazing speakers and got prepared by rehearsing my full talk with my coach.
Waiting backstage was, of course, nerve raking but I was excited to get going.
The most anxious moment was getting strapped up with the mic and standing at the side of the stage, ready to give my talk.
Walking to the red circle felt like it took 20 minutes but when I got there, I was able to look out and felt a sense of confidence that I could remember my talk and communicate it well.
I always find that once you face a fear and prepare well in advance, you gain a real sense of accomplishment and joy from overcoming something that was originally a barrier for you. That’s exactly how I felt with this.
Doing my GetPsyched videos was of course initially nerve raking, no one really likes being filmed initially. However, that eventually became routine. This was very very different.
In truth, I have to say I really enjoyed every second of giving my talk. The joy of this whole process, the months of preparing, rehearsing and amending my script all concluded with what was an awesome day.
Since then the opportunities for speaking and connecting with others have really grown, but I don’t want this blog post to be just about me. I want to give some advice and belief to people that want to undertake a TED talk but perhaps think it’s out of their reach.
So, here are some of my top tips for getting started:
- You absolutely are capable of doing it. TED talks might have a huge global status and platform but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply or speak. TED is looking for innovating and interesting ideas, we all have those. So my first piece of advice is to believe that this is an option for you.
- When thinking of an idea to talk about, it doesn’t have to be a “never before heard of” topic. It could be a topic that we all understand but given a different angle due to your subject appreciation. Think about a topic you love and how that topic might be appreciated different because of your own living experience.
- Apply! You could spend months building up the courage and constructing ideas, but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t send that application form!
- The important thing is not about how well you know the topic, or how smart you can sound. The key to any process with a TED talk is to discuss what it means to you. What is your story connected to your topic? How can people connect with the story through you?
I encourage anyone thinking about doing something like this to go for it. TEDx Glasgow is one of the most incredible events and one of the biggest honours of my life!
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
I put more time into sharing content on Twitter, I started a GetPsyched Facebook page and an Instagram account under my own name.
This was all in an effort to network, to reach more people and to potentially create new opportunities and share ideas and content.
It was tricky at first, being in front of a camera felt very unnatural.
I had no idea about recording or video editing and so learned as much as I could from YouTube videos and articles.
Initially, the engagement was slow. I struggled to gain much traction and saw little development.
However, I had made a commitment and really did not want to fall at the first hurdle. As the months went on I developed my website frasersmithcounsellingpsy.com.
This brought more traffic and engagement to both my written blog and my YouTube channel.
As time progressed I was getting contacted by different organisations that liked my work and wanted me to write some guest blog articles.
PsychReg contacted me a few months into the development of my online content. They were a developing psychology organisation that published research and online material.
I wrote an article on men’s mental health and one on top tips for psychology undergraduates.
A few weeks later, I was invited to be interviewed about men’s mental health on the PsychReg podcast, The Mental Breakdown.
You can check out the video here.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
Men’s mental health is my passion. I have studied the area for a number of years now whilst studying for my doctorate in counselling psychology. You can actually check out a blog post I did on men’s mental health by clicking here.
I recently heard that BPS members will have the opportunity to vote for a male psychology section, devoted to establishing an understanding and appreciation of men’s mental health and the barriers men experience in accessing therapeutic services.
I see both sides of the argument. I welcome the idea that men need more attention in research and more support in the practical implementation of therapy. I understand that a male-specific section of the BPS may facilitate this.
However, I have reservations that this may marginalise men and their mental health further, that it may segregate them further from the main body of psychological research and practical therapy. I also feel that men’s mental health is a priority for psychologist working in any form of mental health, and so am concerned that focus on men may become secondary due to an isolated branch being devoted to male psychology.
My mind is still to be made up.
However, I recently read an article about why we do not need a male-specific section of the BPS. You can read the article here – https://notomalepsych.wordpress.com/men-and-mental-health/
This article outlines a number of ‘myths’ about men’s mental health and uses that as a basis for not having the specific section in the BPS for male psychology.
I felt compelled to write a response.
What worries me about perceptions as ones outlined in this article is that there seem to be attempts to critique the very nature of men’s lived experiences of mental health in today’s world.
These ‘myths’ are as follows:
- Myth #1
- Men are more likely to have mental health issues than women.
- Myth #2
- Men find it more difficult to access mental health services than women
- Myth #3
- Mental health provision is designed for women/no one ever talks about men’s mental health
I was struck by the attempts to display the challenges men face in mental health as ‘myths’. In my view, and in the view of many others, they are far from this. Men experience barriers to accessing therapy on numerous fronts, from zero-sum gender beliefs to stigma to hegemonic masculine identities.
Not only this but the research, which has been growing over the years although focussed more on a quantitative standpoint, is still lacking in its understanding and appreciation of men’s mental health.
The lack of qualitative research that seeks to establish thorough appreciations of men’s lived experience of mental health and therapeutic uptake barriers, is profound and cannot be ignored.
Allow me to go into detail about where I think this articles perceptions falter:
This article seems to infer that men are not more likely to suffer from mental illness than women but gives no sound reasoning for this assumption.
This article states that men are more likely to be diagnosed with personality disorders and women more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
With regards to the statistics, this has got some grounds in a sound understanding of the differences in diagnoses between men and women.
However, the article attempts to justify this with the following:
“This might be due to gender bias on part of those who diagnose”
An inference that can really only be based on assumption. If this is the case, I see no way in understanding how this gets us closer to appreciating how there is no difference between men and women with regards to the lived experience of mental health.
In part, I see some of the justification in the argument for this first ‘myth’. Men may very well experience some mental health illnesses on the same level as women, I am not refuting this.
However, there has been no consideration made of the fact that stigmatisation in men accessing help is not reserved only for therapeutic services.
The research shows that men suffer barriers in accessing any kind of medical help, this includes diagnosis of mental health illnesses. Perhaps those that wrote this article are aware of this, it cannot, however, be used as justification to infer that women must as a result experience mental health challenges on the same level.
My point here is that it may very well be the case that mental illness experiences are the same for both men and women. However, currently, we simply do not know due to lack of research and lack of understanding of the stigmatised barriers men experience in accessing diagnosis and therapy.
We, therefore, cannot make assumptions on this basis.
This article makes comment to the perception that men suffer more challenges in accessing therapy than women. This article infers that this is not the case and that challenges in therapeutic uptake are the same for every group.
As for backing for this argument, this article goes into some detail about methodological issues with the empirical literature that attempts to outline this fact.
In doing so, the article concludes that we cannot infer that therapeutic uptake is more challenging for men than women.
My first issues with this are that barriers to therapeutic access for men are arguably one of the main factors that we see growth rates of male suicide and mental health in today’s society.
My second issue is that conclusions refuting factual information cannot be drawn from methodological inaccuracies and inconsistencies.
We should by all means critique studies and their findings, we should find holes in the work already established. However, unless the findings are starkly inaccurate and overemphasised, we cannot use this critique as grounds for disputing all findings. We can only use the critique to develop new and more robust empirical research.
The article goes on to make the comment that men of all identities are not equally appreciated in the men’s mental health literature. I completely agree.
However, if anything, I feel this reinforces the argument for a male psychology section, where if established, I would hope would take on the responsibility for representing all cohorts of men. Something where I too feel the research is lacking. I do not see how this is grounds for the lack of need for a male psychology section of the BPS, however.
This article goes on to state that middle-class men’s barriers to accessing therapy have more to do with Western ideologies than their male gender identity.
They reference Farrimond (2012) in backing the following argument:
“Indeed, even among the middle class, white men it is less their gender that stops them from accessing healthcare but rather the increasing pressures on citizens in the West to be responsible, in control and not burdens on others with regard to their health”
I find this an interesting argument. The points may be valid but I again feel that the hegemonic traditional male role identity cannot be ignored here.
The provider, the representation of ‘strength’ is still a toxic identity held onto by many men and really should be considered when making arguments as above.
The article goes on to state that focus should be centred on refuting the incessant financial governmental cuts to mental health services in our country.
I totally agree that this is a factor and one that all mental health professionals should oppose.
It also, if achieved, would, of course, better the treatment and diagnosis of men suffering from mental health challenges, as it would for all demographics.
However, to state that this should be the primary focus, and abandoning attempts to better appreciate the forgotten issue of men’s mental health is not valid.
It is not a case of one without the other, we can fight for better financial support for mental health treatment and better understandings of men’s mental health.
Also, one without the other will ultimately result in poorer service and appreciation for the men who suffer in silence.
This article goes into an argument about the centrality that men play in TV campaigns, conferences and advertisement when talking about mental health.
More recently, but not historically, this may be the case, but it is because of all the points I have gone into above.
On the basis of this articles inaccurate suggestions, no wonder they have come to the conclusion that men should not be as prominent as they are in mental health campaigns.
The issue is, however, that their arguments are not supported. Men suffer constantly in silence from mental issues, they experience barriers unlike many demographics in accessing therapy and diagnosis for mental health illnesses and they are currently far more likely to take their own lives than other groups.
Regardless of your views on the proposed specific male psychology section in the BPS, let those views be determined by how you think men could be treated best (with or without the proposed section). Do not let those views be altered or influenced by inaccurate arguments and evidence.