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Big boys don’t cry - Mental Health

15 Feb by Family Thoughts
20 minutes

About three months ago we were delivering online mental health for first aid course when one of the participants started to discuss men’s mental health. I looked around the group and it dawned on me that there were only two males present both were guest speakers, therefore quite obviously likely to attend the course. However, there were no other men there to help raise the awareness of men’s mental health. This got me thinking about the men in my own life, and the way I had watched them cope with pain, grief, anger, and disappointment but specifically my focus shifted to my brother Jamie and his bulimia.


To the outside world, Jamie has it all a beautiful home, a beautiful wife, two awesome kids, two cats, a fantastic car, and a very well-paid job. He is often described as handsome, and his wardrobe is full of designer clothes. Jamie’s photos on Instagram and Facebook validate his designer lifestyle.  Yet his life is not as glamorous as it would appear on social media.


Jamie suffers from bulimia and severe bouts of depression, he has an addictive personality and always takes everything to the extreme, whether this is sports, food, wine, spending or even work. On top of this, Jamie feels isolated and alone a lot of the time, and this can be very difficult for his family to deal with, often feeling Jamie’s depression as rejection, unappreciation for all that we do, and often we do not know how to confront Jamie when he disappears to the bathroom after eating three deserts at dinner.


It is hard to pinpoint exactly when I realised that Jamie had an eating disorder, how often do we count the number of times that somebody visits the bathroom after dinner? It is not that I didn’t know the signs of bulimia, but rather it was a combination of my own expectations that women are more likely to have eating disorders, coupled with the fact that I never really paid my brother that much attention. This is something that I genuinely regret and often talk about my feelings of guilt. However, it is reflection that has helped me to sit down with my brother and have the conviction to hear his story without taking offence to his words.


Jamie explained to me that he always felt under pressure, he is the youngest of four children, and there is a nine-year age gap between him and my other brother, so he always felt more like an only child. He says that our achievements in education, work, having happy home lives added to his mounting pressures to be successful. He added that he always felt as though everything he did, everything he wore, and everything he owned had to be perfect, as though somebody somewhere was judging him.

He still feels like this now, he dislikes mess, buys the best of everything, is over-generous and very self-critical. But he is working on it.  Jamie attends counselling for his eating disorder and is on medication for depression but still, you would never know.  He does not look any different, he continues to work every day, he laughs at the bar with his friends, but he also goes and sits in his car away from everyone to cry, it is this that we need to talk about more.


I can relate to the loneliness of having to cry in private, in fact, I am not sure if I have ever cried with others around me in style with big sobs and wet tissues all over the place, and lots of tender loving care from those who care. I have always had the support of close friends, family, and my partner to tell me that everything will be ok. Yet I still had this cultural belief that considered crying a weakness or vulnerability, so I can only imagine how my brother would see opening up about feeling depressed being as foreign to him as living on the moon.

However, when my brother told me that he thought crying in front of his family and friends wasn’t masculine and that it would make him look weak, well, that kind of hurt.  I didn’t like the thought of him feeling so alone in the world, yet I didn’t know how to hug him, none of my family are ‘huggers’ and upon reflection, I realised that none of my family are really forthcoming with our feelings, we hold the typical stiff upper lip, we as my mother always said “pull up our sleeves and crack on with things” yet somehow this conversation was about to change all of that well, mostly. I still don’t really like hugging very much and that’s ok.


I started to think about how I could protect my brother, and how I could help him heal his past traumas, I am no counsellor, so was glad that Jamie had finally sought professional guidance. He always came back from his counselling sessions looking happier, talking more and really telling us how he felt about things. This led to me researching men’s mental health and spaces to talk the statistics were very worrying.


Men are three times as likely as women to die by suicide, with men aged between 40-49 having the highest suicide rates in the UK and men are less likely than women to access services such as counselling or psychotherapy groups. So, what can we do? This is where Tigerlily First Aid Training can help.


Tigerlily First Aid Training offers qualifications in first aid for mental health, and in these sessions, we find safe spaces for learners to engage with their own assumptions, we discuss a variety of different mental health issues (including men’s mental health) and we discuss mental, and social well-being.

Very often our focus is on the physical health of a person if they look ok then we don’t really engage in wellness questions, so when we do engage in these types of discussions, they can feel awkward, we are unsure of what to say, or can take offence to other people’s feeling. For example, as a sister, I felt like I had always been close to my brother, and that he could tell me if he had any problems, so when he opened about his feelings, it really hurt to hear him say that he felt so alone, and that he had nobody to talk to.


The first aid for mental health course gives the tools to support others through difficult times in their lives, we learn to actively listen, to signpost to professional services, to recognise signs of depression etc,

We all have ‘mental health’ so if you woke up feeling happy today, then your mental health is in a positive place, however, if you wake up feeling low, then being able to talk about how you feel and what you are experiencing can make such a huge difference.


Here at Tigerlily Training, we support you taking a proactive approach to your wellbeing and that of others, at work or even at home with your family and friends.

In 2018, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) updated their guidance to employers to include training first aid for mental health to their employees alongside first aid at work.


  1. Attracting and retaining colleagues
  2. Providing a duty of care
  3. Optimising engagement and productivity
  4. Contributing towards building a positive culture


Our First Aid for Mental Health qualification can be attended online or face to face - whichever suits your individual or company requirements - choosing from a range of qualifications below:


  • Half-day Mental Health Awareness
  • One First Aid for Mental Health
  • Two-day Supervising for Mental Health