Men’s Mental Health Listens
By Kathryn Alley, Cameron Phillips and Sarunicka Satkuruparan
November is Men’s Health Awareness Month, so we wanted to dedicate this issue to recommending audiobooks that bring awareness to different experiences of mental health. Blame it on societal pressures, cultural norms or generational history, there is no denying that there’s a stigma around men discussing and expressing emotion. As the Mental Health Foundation found, men are not only less likely than women to seek professional help but are also less likely to disclose a mental health problem to friends and family. For men to feel empowered to speak up, they need to feel seen, and this is where media such as literature becomes a powerful weapon.
Audiobooks can be great comforts in times of heightened stress and anxiety. The relaxing voice of a narrator is a suitable remedy for overwhelmed, panicked minds. When reflecting on the month of November, and the platform for men’s mental health, I wanted to highlight a listen that captures the peaceful practice of mindfulness. The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer and narrated by Peter Berkrot, is a lovely understanding of the mind’s relationship with our emotions and how to free ourselves from habitual, unhealthy thought patterns that limit consciousness. Berkrot’s soothing voice encourages that the worldly pains and societal stressors we experience daily have nothing to do with us; rather, when we remember that we are separate and only aware of these things, the burden becomes significantly lighter. Singer promises hope for men and women that a life of peace and serenity is possible. When we learn to silence the chaos of voices in our head, we can experience the full happiness of music in our soul – a celebration of our present life. There is nothing more beautiful than the pursuit of wholeness and I hope this audiobook is a powerful tool towards healing and courage in our mental health journeys.
There is a level of connection that is created when words are narrated by the person who wrote them. Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is a memoir written and narrated by Matthew Perry. Throughout the book he depicts his lifelong battle with addiction, taking us on the journey of his life from his fractured family to the desire for recognition that drove him to fame, and the void inside him that could not be filled even by his greatest dreams coming true.
I recommend this audiobook because Perry doesn’t give a false narrative of recovery being linear. He is honest about his relapses, mistakes, highs, lows and more than anything, highlights the daily journey that is a part of experiencing any mental health battle.
His tone throughout is reflective - on the person he was, on the people from his past and on how bad a mental state he was in. Despite speaking of such heavy moments in this life, he never loses his trademark charm, wit and familiarity to the audience. Ultimately, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is a hand extended to anyone struggling with sobriety. Despite all the hardship, it offers hope for the future, and this is the takeaway Perry wants to leave to those hearing his story.
If anyone has read my previous entry last year on my mental health, then they’ll know it is on the up. One of the things I wanted to do in the twelve months after my last entry on this topic was to reconnect with my family, friends and most importantly, my hobbies. Due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, I felt extremely isolated from all three of those above things, and honestly, the thing that hurt me the most was losing touch with my hobbies. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family and even better friends, but it is my hobbies and passion for them that have really come back to me. This is one of the main takeaways from my choice for this Issue, that of The World according to Mister Rogers, written by the American Reverend Fred Rogers.
Narrated by several people, namely Tyne Daly, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin and André Watts, they take us through Fred’s snippets of life advice, interviews and personal stories. Perhaps the two most important parts I took from the book was the difference between being lonely and being in solitude. One is a choice, and that is more than OK. Filling that solitude is a task, and this is where my hobbies come to the fore. I’m writing more than ever (which I have to again thank Chelsea for), drawing more than ever and getting better at them every time. It pushes me to improve every time I pick up my pens and pencils. Secondly and lastly, Fred talks about how important we can potentially be to the people in our lives. Most people don’t go around telling people how important they are, but I think some people, through language or action, need to be told they matter. When it comes to men and their male mates, I think that is especially important.