questioning sexuality

Are you questioning your sexuality?

Am I gay? Am I straight? What am I? It’s completely normal to question your sexuality, regardless of gender, life experiences or however you see your masculinity or femininity.

We’re desperate to attach labels on everything and everyone but working out what you do and don’t like sexually and doesn’t have to be so scary. In fact, we question pretty much everything else in our lives so why would our sexuality be any different?

New research published by Promundo in partnership with Lynx, Unilever’s leading male grooming brand uncovers what it truly means to be a modern man. The research finds that there is a ‘Man Box’ – a set of masculine ideals, that guys are pressured to conform to.

At least 57% of guys surveyed said they had been told a “real man should behave a certain way” at some point in their lives. This is preventing guys from showing their true feelings, with 48% of guys surveyed agreeing with “in my opinion guys should act strong even if they feel scared or nervous inside.”

One startling statistic was that 30% of UK participants agreed strongly that a gay guy is not a “real man”, which makes it much harder for guys to feel like they can explore their sexuality without it impacting on their masculinity.

Here are 8 things you need to know about questioning your sexuality:

1. It’s OK to question it.

You can’t control the things you’re inherently attracted to. It’s perfectly normal to question and explore your sexuality, it’s also surprisingly common. Ditch the Label research finds that half of us don’t identify as being 100% straight anyway.

2. No judging.

Explore. We can’t emphasize this enough. Exploring won’t, however, be beneficial to your self-discovery if you keep judging yourself for your actions. Deep breath. Stop thinking. Start doing.

3. Its nobody else’s business.

People love labels and for things to be clear. But that does not mean you need to rush to pick one to satisfy anyone else’s impatience, including your own.

If you are looking for tips for coming out as bisexual, click the button below:

4. It isn’t as big of a deal as everyone makes out.

Who you get with is absolutely nobody else’s business but your own. As long as it’s safe, legal and consensual – who gives a damn?

The people who are most likely to judge you are only doing it largely because they are insecure about their own sexuality. The lion never loses sleep over the opinion of sheep. Be the lion, not the sheep.

5. You can be honest.

If the dreaded sexuality question comes up and you are not ready to answer it. You are 100% allowed to unashamedly say you’re not sure.

6. You are not alone.

No matter how different your sexuality may feel, there are others out there like you. Just remember that not everybody is comfortable talking about it, so talking online first could be a safe way to get the information and advice you need.

7. The confusion doesn’t last forever.

I know right now it might feel pretty uncomfortable but I promise it does get better.

8. Talk to us.

We get it, this stuff is not always easy or straightforward (no pun intended). Join our community here and share your questions anonymously, I guarantee you are not the only one asking them.

Got one to add? Join the community get let us know.

It’s LGBT+ History Month! To celebrate, here’s something we wrote about the amazing LGBT+ role model for young men everywhere: rugby star Gareth Thomas.

We’ve already covered how much of a hero Gareth is before, but we decided now would be a better time than ever to introduce this man to you and explain exactly why he should be given a bloody knighthood already.

Firstly, Gareth Thomas is a rugby hall of famer. He represented Wales exactly one hundred times and is one of their top try scorers. Not many players get to play for their country but Gareth has managed to do so in Rugby Union, Rugby League and international Sevens as well. 

Aside from rugby, Gareth has just as much impact off the field as he does on it. In 2009, he came out as gay and said that “what I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby” which is pretty bang on, if you ask us. He became one of the first rugby players to do so. 

Whenever Gareth has revealed anything in his life to the public, it is always with the hope of making it easier for somebody else to do the same. When he came out, he wanted to make sure that future gay rugby players could just be seen as talented rugby players and that if his story made it easier for just one young lad in a similar position then it would all have been worth it. This desire to empower others is incredibly selfless and speaks volumes about the kind of man he is.

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He was a victim of a hate crime in 2018. What was truly amazing about the aftermath is that he didn’t want to press charges. The assaulter was a young man and Gareth requested that he apologise and learn to understand the true effect hate crime has on the victims. 

A few weekends ago, he did something truly incredible. Just shortly after revealing he is living with HIV in a heartbreaking video, he completed a gruelling 140-mile Ironman triathlon just to prove the idea we have of people living with HIV is outdated. In 2019, HIV and asthma requires about the same amount of medication. Thousands of people now live healthy lives with HIV. He has now pledged to work on breaking the stigma around it and empower those in the same position. In the video, Gareth says that he was being threatened by a tabloid who said they would out this secret. So, in true legendary fashion, he released a video himself to let the world know that this is his story to tell and nobody else’s. 

There’s no doubt that Gareth has had a rollercoaster of a ride so far. But his desire to prove that you are not defined by one individual thing along with his work to break down stigmas and empower people by owning his life and his story makes him a huge role model for us and many, many others. By being so selfless and sharing his life with total honesty, not only gives others a voice to speak out but shows that support is out there. 

Countless celebrities, role models, as well as thousands of the public have shown their support and admiration for the strength and bravery of Gareth for sharing his story. This is a man who is constantly breaking down barriers and is respected by everyone. Even England rugby fans will give the Welshman a big cheer. Wherever Gareth goes, he is completely respected by those inside and outside of the sporting industry. From Princes Harry and William, to his best rugby mates, to the LGBTQ+ community, Gareth is inspiring so many people and empowering them all to feel comfortable in their own skin. Gareth, we salute you and applaud you, you absolute hero. But mostly, we’re so thankful for the work you do to help make this world a kinder place to live. 

If you want support or need to speak to someone confidentially, you can join our community here.

For more inspiration and daily motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

It’s LGBT history month! So we caught up with Sam Stanley, one of the first openly gay rugby players, to chat about rugby, pride, and how he dealt with coming to terms with his sexuality in an industry where very few had already done so.

Hi Sam, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, I’m an English born boy from Thurrock in Essex, raised by a Kiwi (someone from New Zealand) father and an English mother. I’ve Samoan heritage also. 

I played rugby from the age of 4 and ever since I can remember, it was my dream to play it professionally. My uncle was an All Black and so my father, as well as his other brothers, made sure their children would have rugby in their blood!

I would say I was around 10 years old when I started feeling different to what I was “supposed” to feel. Almost like my emotions weren’t in tact and that I was pretty strange feeling the way I did.

Being a rugby player, there’s this apparent “macho” way of being that you’re supposed to live up to so you can imagine the fear of thinking I may be gay. I say this because growing up, and even now I still hear, being gay for some reason meant you were less of a man – camp, effeminate, soft etc I’ve heard them all. People even tell me now how “it’s nice because you don’t act like a gay person”. If I acted like “a gay person” would you think of me differently? Maybe we’re all just very judgemental!!

Anyway long story short, I’m an out and proud gay man moving between London and Sicily with my partner Laurence. We’ve had a place in Sicily since 2013 and lived here for 18 months previously; having been together now for 9 years.

You played a very high level and touring with the England Sevens in the World Series, how did that feel to represent your country?

For me it was the icing on the cake having had numerous knee operations and struggling to stay fit.

I played at Saracens previously, having risen through their academy. I only managed a handful of first team appearances here and there, however, as I found myself sidelined a lot through injury. Maybe I should have played golf.

I’m just grateful that Simon Amor gave me the opportunity to do so and loved my time playing 7s. Met some awesome people along the way.

You’ve mentioned your mum being a huge support, what do you think that did for you when you were coming to terms with your identity?

Well at first I think Mum struggled to come to terms with it. We actually kept it a secret as her view was a protective one. She had gay friends growing up so not that that was the issue but more from the point of view of ‘What will it do for your career? If a coach is homophobic it might be detrimental to your progression’ etc. Also, she was afraid at what my siblings & father would say.

No disrespect to my mum but it was actually my ex girlfriend who was a huge support and helped push things forward for me. I consider her my best friend and I’m her gay best friend haha! I’m lucky I have numerous supportive people around me. My brother, sister, father, aunties, uncles… too many to name.

How did it feel to be hiding your sexuality from your teammates?

It was the worst feeling to be honest. Having to see them day in day out making sure I had my lies down to a tee. Not being able to be open about who I really was, what I got up to at weekends. The only real social life I had in rugby was when I had to be at a function or something. I’d try and avoid going out with the boys every time, at least until I was honest about who I am, which was the best feeling in the world. It was a huge weight to carry and I hate the fact that so many people go through this.

What was the response from your teammates like when you did come out? Did anything change?

Yes a lot changed! The boys were great. I was playing 7s at the time so quite a tight knit group of only 18 full time players then. Lots of questions asked, obviously, and people were taking an interest in what it was like. It gave me lots of confidence and I was able to be training and playing without that fear anymore. 

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Did you receive any negative comments online after coming out? How do you deal with that?

Not directly but certainly indirectly that I saw on some threads. I think I’m responsible enough to know anyone can make an account and hide behind it. Negative comments I just tried to overlook. You’ve just got to laugh it off really.

How does it feel to see great ally support online and recently at London Pride from big name players in the game like Drew Mitchell, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and plenty more?

Oh it’s great to see! Such progress in rugby and its inclusiveness. These guys just keep helping the cause. They certainly seem to be making it easier for players to be themselves. It would have been awesome to see the support back when I was struggling. I admire Drew Mitchell for his support, particularly with the issue over Israel Folau. They were teammates and as similar playing positions may have been pretty close at one point. Probably most players that disagreed [with Folau] kept quiet so it’s great to see others speak up! 

What advice would you give to a young sports player who is also coming to terms with their identity?

I think it’s a tough one all the time because there’s a lot to coming out. What are their family and friends like? Will they be supportive? Can the person support themselves or be supported if things don’t go so well?

From experience, I can say now that things have been great since being able to be truthful. Not having to hide your life really is incredible.

What’s the best thing about being in the prominent position you’re in and having come out?

That having shared my story helped others come to terms with themselves. I love receiving messages of support from those that have found courage because of what I have done. It really makes it all worthwhile.

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Sam’s story is nothing short of inspiring and he’s a downright awesome bloke. For more from him, be sure to follow his Instagram @samstannerz.

For more interviews, inspiring stories and everyday motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

It’s instilled in guys from a young age that ‘men don’t cry’ and that we’re not allowed to ‘show weakness’. So, for our ‘fear season’, we spoke to an anonymous rugby player about a life-changing realisation he had in that environment.

Rugby has always been a huge part of my life. Team sport is a super-intense environment and we spent almost everyday together training or playing or dicking about. Obviously, you would’ve seen me have my good days and my bad days too. One of the bad days I remember more than usual because of what you all did. 

I hadn’t had a particularly rough day; it was all pretty standard from what I remember. We began training and went into a drill. I got hit. Pretty hard. I’d never really had a problem with the intensity or ‘putting body on the line’ style of play but for some reason this time it didn’t go down so well. I got up and walked off and I remember trying to act as if I was pissed off to try to cover up what was inevitably about to happen. 

As Sam Stanley said in his interview for Ditch, there’s this ‘super-macho’ connotation that a precedes someone who is a rugby player and so you buy into that; expecting people to see you that way and eventually only seeing yourself that way. I believed that everyone thought I was a super-masculine ‘rugby boy’ and that I should act in a way that shows exactly that.

I was always a bit of a sore thumb. Your lives revolve around rugby. Sometimes, I felt like I didn’t train as hard as you or run that extra lap because my life didn’t. You knew I had different goals. I’d get absolutely rinsed for saying I couldn’t play a game because I was acting in a music video and that I couldn’t make a social because I had ballet class.

Crying therefore wasn’t an option. But, I guess no one really chooses when they’re going to cry. I broke down as soon as I walked away – obviously facing away from you all because I couldn’t let you see (as if I thought you all hadn’t realised already). 

That was that. The facade came crashing down and I stopped being a rugby boy. I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t manly enough to earn that title and I didn’t deserve it. I was waiting for the jokes and ridicule to begin as soon as I stepped foot in the changing rooms. As soon as we came off the pitch, I knew I was going to become the team’s laughing stock.

In reality, we carried on as normal. We trained as normal. You treated me as normal. 

There weren’t any jokes. There wasn’t any brutal banter. The captain came up to me and asked if I was alright and so did the coach. Trying to brush it off and regain some of that rugby boy mentality, I said I was fine. And fortunately, I was. But without that support and acceptance from you all I might not have been. 

If you had rinsed me and made me feel like a dick, then maybe I wouldn’t have been ok with the fact I just cried in front of twenty of the hardest blokes I knew. Maybe I would’ve caged up and kept it quiet. And maybe that’s what happens to lads not as lucky as I am to have that support. 

I realise now, the reason you treated me as normal is because what happened was completely normal. You all knew you had been in the same situation before and that it wasn’t a big deal. I had always been told not to cry in my life and so, for me, I really thought it was. 

The idea of rugby players and sporting stars is false. They’re not these unbreakable superheroes. We may see them as our idols but they’re regular people with talents just like the rest of us. Rugby boys do not need to be super-masculine. You can be the most fantastic player on the pitch and still have interests and traits that don’t necessarily carry a stereotypically masculine idea with it. 

You are yourself before you are anything else. I am myself before I am a rugby player, or a dancer, or a musical theatre fan. 

I am strong because the blokes around me were stronger and lifted me up when I was down. And I was there for them when they needed me. Sport gets a lot of stick for it’s apparent lack of inclusivity but, in all honesty, those are stereotypes that are proven to be false when you’re in that environment. 

A team is defined as ‘a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.’ Nothing about your culture, sexuality, race, religion, hobbies, passions, skills, beliefs or the way you make tea can stop you from being part of a team (you might get a bit of stick if you put the milk in first). A team does not discriminate because if you put your body on the line for them, they’ll put their bodies on the line for you – no matter who you are.

Sport and the people I met in it, the teams I was a part of, and the crazily-strong bonds I formed with my mates, has developed me as a bloke. They’ve made me more open and honest with myself and, most importantly, be proud of who I am. There’s no facade anymore. So thank you boys – I owe you a pint or two. 

To the guys reading this – speak up and speak out. Trust in someone near you because I have no doubt they’ll support you the way my mates supported me. Staying silent kills.

To the guys unsure about their mate, ask. Don’t sit on the bench watching on. They might need you more than you know. 

Boys – we’re all rubbish at speaking up when we are feeling low. So let’s get better as a team. Help the guy on the floor back to his feet because you never know when you might need him to do the same for you. There’s nothing weak about being honest. 

If you’d like to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, you can join our community here.

A concert.

In this instalment of ‘Good Fellas’, we take a look at the story and work of musician Ben Coyle-Larner aka Loyle Carner.

Ben is a musician from South London whose music has been described as sensitive and eloquent as he raps openly about his life over mellow, jazzy beats. But, his openness and introspection goes further than his music.  

Ben’s a bit of a king when it comes to owning your story and being proud of who you are. His stage name, Loyle Carner, is a spoonerism of his real last name and a very cool nod to his dyslexia. He’s spoken openly about his ADHD before, referring to it as ‘the best and worst thing about him’. Cooking was something he found all encompassing and it helped to channel that energy into something productive. He now runs a cooking school for 14-16 year olds with ADHD to help them do the same. And he only went and named it ‘Chilli Con Carner’. Genius.

Coyle-Larner is also an ambassador for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), working on confronting the issue of male suicide – the single biggest killer of men under 45. You don’t need us to tell you that men don’t talk about how they’re feeling enough. And Ben doesn’t need us to either – his second album ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘ confronts the idea that battling mental health isn’t always obvious. It can look like someone’s successful and having a fantastic time in life, but really we can have no idea what people are actually going through. 

It’s a nod to the thousands of men who need to talk but won’t search for it.

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Ben entered the music industry with an EP called ‘A Little Late’ which featured a track called ‘Cantona‘ – a tribute to his late step-father and his idol. He then released his first album, ‘Yesterdays Gone‘, and the front cover is the entirety of his family and friends (and his dog). One of the most touching tracks is ‘Sun of Jean’. Ben’s mum – a huge presence in a lot of his music – reads a poem she wrote about him over a piano melody played by his step-father. That personal touch is rife throughout all of his work.

His second album, ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘, starts and ends with two open letters. The first to his mum about moving out to live with his girlfriend, and the second a reply to Ben to say “I’ve gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son”. ‘Krispy‘ is a song to his best friend Rebel Kleff – who he stopped talking to – asking to move on from their differences and get his best mate back. He leaves half the song as instrumental for Rebel Kleff to write a reply. The album features recordings of him talking to his friends and family. One where he tells a music colleague that his son is “lucky to have a good dad like you”. Music doesn’t see emotional intelligence and honesty like this very often. A guy who wants to talk openly about his life to millions of listeners and empower them. A guy who wants to tackle the stigma around masculinity. A guy who knows that there’s nothing weak about being honest.

Even despite being a trailblazer for openness and emotional maturity in men, he admits it’s still hard even for him. We can’t blame him; can you imagine writing your life down and releasing it for the world to hear? On ‘Krispy’, it’s clear that men still struggle to talk and explain what they mean to each other. He wanted to say all these things to his friend but didn’t feel like he could just do it. So, rather beautifully, he put it all into a song. It proves that men can tell each other how they feel. We’re all fallible because we’re all human. However you want to do it is perfectly valid and means just as much because you’ve done it. You’ve opened up. And that’s a pretty great start.

Changing the face of masculinity is a hard thing to do. Slowly but surely, and with the help of role models like Ben Coyle-Larner, that face is changing. Being sensitive and vulnerable is a fucking strong thing to do as a man, but it’s one that will help you and your friends around you. Help a mate out and start the conversation. You’ll never know who’s waving and who’s drowning if you don’t.

If you want to speak to someone, you can join our community here.

For more inspiration and daily motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

Two men sat on a car roof.

Let’s be honest, men don’t talk openly as much as we should. Fair enough, some of us don’t feel the need to speak as much as others but there’s no doubt men need to be more honest with their mates. Perhaps it’s because we feel like it makes us appear weak or less manly for doing so. In reality, there’s nothing stronger than being able to open up. There might be a time when a mate of yours asks you for a chat so we put together a list of things you can do to make sure you’re doing the best thing a friend can.


Chances are your friend will have come to you in a place that they feel comfortable. They might bring it up while you’re on a run together or playing video games, but respect that that’s where they feel ready enough to talk about it. If they start the conversation over social media, try not to suggest meeting up instead because they may feel more comfortable online than face to face. The important part is that they’re telling you.


It will seem obvious, but this is the most important part of all. The difference between hearing what they have to say and listening is huge. Your buddy will feel a whole lot better if they know you’ve shown full concern for their wellbeing and given attention to the information they have trusted you with. 


It can be hard to find out that your friend isn’t feeling great. Avoid passing judgement on what you think may be their condition or labelling them with an illness that you may have read about. They’ll be feeling fear and confusion towards the feelings they’re experiencing so the last thing they need is a scary name to put on it. 


Take your time to take in what they’ve just said. It meant a lot to them and probably took some guts to open up to you. Think about what you want to say and what you can do to help; because that’s all they want. Revealing this to you means you’re clearly someone they trust and they believe you can help them. 


It can be hard when all you want is the best for your mate. You want them back to their best and to be having a good time; no one likes seeing a bro down and out. But make sure you’re giving them the time they need and not trying to tell them all the things they can do to ‘get better’. All they need you to do is support them and keep being their best mate.


It can be especially hard for us guys to talk openly to do it so if one of your mates decides to open up and normalise the conversation about men’s mental health, then let him know that no matter what, you’ll be there for them. You’re best mates before this and you’ll be best mates after. He would do the same for you. 


Try not to put any pressure on them ‘getting better’. It’s a real positive and a huge step forward now the subject has been mentioned and they’ve acknowledged that they’re struggling a bit more than they’d like. Recovery and rehabilitation takes time. Remember that they’re in a better position than they were by just having someone listen to them. 


Now it’s in the open, you can look with your mate as to the best path they want to take to improve their health. It’s a hugely daunting prospect for someone struggling with their mental health to have to think about these intense and personal situations. Check in with them from time to time to see how they are getting on and if they need to speak again that you are here for them. If they say it’s OK, you could try researching some extra help for them to take when they are ready like support services in your area. 

If you’re worried about one of your mates and want to speak to someone about it, you can join our community here.

A guy jumping into the sea.

Summer is well and truly here. We’ve forgotten about the rainy weather and we’re all dreaming of beaches and pools and big sun hats. Although, as we know, the sun can bring its fair share of issues too and it’s not that easy for some of us to ‘just enjoy it’. So if you want your guy questions answered about how to survive the summer then read on, because we’re here to help you out as always. We’ve only gone and done it again.

‘How Do I Not Sweat in Summer?’

The sweat struggle is most certainly real, my friend. Unfortunately, not sweating isn’t really an option in the heat. It’s a perfectly natural thing to happen and, chances are, if it’s happening to you; it’s happening to everyone else. Men are sweaty. Deodorant up and sweat it out with pride.

‘Everyone’s Wearing Short Shorts and Sleeveless T-Shirts, Should I Too?’

That one’s down to you mate. If you feel comfortable and you’re happy in them, then why not? If you’re pretty uncomfortable and the only real reason you have to wear them is to fit in with the trend, then I wouldn’t bother. Who decided that short shorts are the new in for blokes anyway? They’re not that easy to move in and it kind of ruins your perfect breaststroke technique when you’ve got no kick because the blood flow to your legs is being cut off by the worlds tightest pair of shorts. Also, surely the more important question is who the hell took the sleeves? Is there someone else walking around with your sleeves on?

‘I’ve got long hair and it’s hot, what should I do?’

If you’re a dude sporting some longer locks then it’s understandable that in hot weather, you’re gonna get hot pretty quick. Keep it off your neck if you can and carry out the classic stay-cool techniques. You know the ones: drink water, drink water and drink water.

‘I’m Pretty Pale, How Do I Not Get Burnt?’

Be sensible my fair-skinned friend. The best way to look after yourself is exactly what you were taught at school – slap on the sunscreen, wear a good shady hat, sit in the shade when you can and enjoy the good weather. Oh, and drink water – we always forget that one.

‘Do I Have to Be Topless to Play Sport in the Summer?’

Isn’t it just the worst when toxic masculinity rears his ugly head and tells society that all guys must assert maximum manliness at all times? We can only assume that’s why guys have to be absolutely ripped and play sport with their tops off as soon as the sun comes out. We know it’s because it’s hot, but then what are you to do if you’re not as comfortable with your shirt off? Do us a favour; tell society to get lost and jump in to play no matter how you’re dressed. 

‘Is It Safe to Wee at the Urinal in Shorts?’

Ok, this one’s a bit of a push and it’s probably not the first question you thought of when you came here but the answer is still no. Trust us. If you’ve had a wee in shorts, you’ll know exactly what we mean but if not, here goes nothing. As you innocently stand, going about your natural business, you’ll probably notice a warm spray cover your legs: splashback. And it doesn’t matter where you aim it, it’ll still land on your bare skin. Which also means you’ve just realised it covers your jeans too and you had no idea. You’ve been warned.

‘I’m Not a Summer Clothes Fan, What Do I Do?’

It’s rough. We all love a snuggly hoodie or jacket you can just curl up into. And, so far, we’ve never seen anyone curl up into a pair of swimming shorts with quite the same amount of comfort. Remember, no one’s saying you have to wear shorts and a t-shirt 24/7 so there’s no reason why you can’t just wear whatever you’re comfortable in. Just make sure you’re not going to risk your health so you can wear your fur coat. 

For more LOL’s, memes and summer vibes, follow our Instagram @Ditchthelabel.

Got another question? Ask us below!

Four guys sat laughing together.

Guys, this week is Men’s Health Week! The focus of 2019 is on men’s health in numbers and the crucial stats all men need to know in order to live a full and healthy life. Obviously, it’s an incredibly important topic to talk about and we think it’s more prevalent now than ever; so we’ve created a list of reasons why.

1) The Numbers Don’t Lie

67% of men are overweight or obese and that’s a scary figure. That’s over two thirds of all men around the world. We’ve learnt that a size 37 waist or higher can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. When something like this is put into statistics it will always surprise us but these are the facts that prove we still need to be thinking and learning about men’s health.

2) We Need to Talk

Guys are often seen as the strong characters who can be relied on for support but feeling like you have to be the wall for everyone to lean on is a daunting thought. Unfortunately, blokes seem to prefer to bottle up their worries rather than let one of their mates know how they’re really getting on. This can have a really bad effect on anyone’s mental health, be it male or female, so we need to start the conversation more often to get us all to open up. These chats may feel big but once you’ve started, it’s a lot easier to carry on. There’s nothing weak about being honest and someone’s emotional wellbeing is not something to be messed with; especially if it’s your own. Men’s Health Week reminds us that we still aren’t completely aware or thinking about men’s health enough.

3) And Not Talking Can Be Really Dangerous

It’s a devastatingly tragic statistic that 3 out of 4 suicides are male. This is something that desperately needs to be addressed so, if we learn anything from all of the numbers in this year’s Men’s Health Week, make sure we take note of this one.

4) The Pub Can Be a Fickle Friend

We think that the stereotypical masculine lifestyle isn’t necessarily the healthiest. There’s a large emphasis upon pub culture and heavily meat-based diets. For instance, the main thing guys do if they want to meet up is go down the pub for a few drinks. Anything over 14 units of alcohol a week can lead to a whole host of health problems. Don’t get us wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a couple pints with your mates but there is a line when it becomes more unhealthy than balanced in terms of diet.

5) Gym Culture Can Be Pretty Damaging…

Currently, society puts huge pressure on men and women to look a certain way. Social media is creating a world where most men seem to think they should all look like they’ve been carved from stone. In reality, all bodies are individual and no one should feel like they need to change theirs in order to be more attractive because it creates an environment where men feel they need to be in the gym or working out 24/7. 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity is a good amount to aim for. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle but the demands and strains that overuse of the gym and diet supplements, like protein, can put on the body will often lead to more harm than good.

6) … And So Can Lad Culture

The world sometimes feels like it revolves around how many likes you get on your socials or how likeable you are to your preferred partner. Being in a group of lads can sometimes be a great way to create mates and bond. However, things like peer pressure and toxic masculinity can become rife in an environment like this and, when we remember that men prefer not to talk about their problems, mental health issues such as stress and anxiety may develop.

Whether it be your father, son, brother, granddad, uncle, best mate or just a guy you know from school; let’s start the conversation together. If you feel like you, or your mate, needs anyone to talk to then you can join our community.

It’s Men’s Health Week, and basketball player Brendan Okoronkwo talks about what he learned through dealing with mental health issues.

I’m struggling with depression”. The hardest four words I’ve had to say.

There was no specific moment in my life that made me depressed. I think it was more a culmination of life events combined with a lack of recognition of the issues, and not allowing myself time to deal. Why? Because I’m a man, that’s what we do. We’re supposed to be strong, right? We are the ones meant to protect others; we should have the answers in difficult times. That’s what I always believed anyway. Despite all the awesome work being done to break down this stigma, it’s still everywhere you look. 

I can’t remember what made me finally start talking about it. I think frustration that bottling up my emotions didn’t go so well when I tried it. I wish I knew then what I know now about the whole thing though – maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long if I did. 

1) I will not be judged

I’m the loud one in the family, always smiling, always playing pranks, a semi-professional basketball player. I moved away from home for sunny Brighton after uni and found my way into a potentially high paying sales job in recruitment meaning I talk to strangers pretty much all day every day. 

How can you be depressed? There are people with worse life situations than you? Just cheer up, you’ll be fine! But you’re always so smiley, what’s changed?

When I sat my family down to tell them those four words, these are just some of the million responses that ran through my mind.

Reality? Silence. Only for a few seconds, I’m sure it was a lot to take in. Then my mum cried, not from shame but because she knew how hard that was for me to share. We hugged, and I honestly felt like I’d taken off a backpack full of bricks I’d been carrying around for months at that moment. My dad who I had never had a conversation anywhere close to this about feelings started to call me every other day for at least 3 months to talk or sometimes just a quick hello. I don’t think he knows how much that meant to just have someone. 

2) I can break and make new habits

Sharing gave me safe spaces around me which means I can now recognise when things get bad. I started to look at my habits and how I could make new ‘mini-routines’ to accommodate my mental health. For example, when dealing with lack of rest/sleep, I gave myself a ‘phone curfew’ before bed and replaced the mindless scrolling with meditation and reading. 

Another thing I struggled with was feeling distant in social situations. When meeting groups of people (friends or strangers) I make sure I say hello to everyone individually. Sounds small but it means I’m engaged at the start of the interaction, better chance to stay present throughout.

My favourite mini routine is my pre-game basketball routine. Basketball has been a big part of my life, I’ve made lifetime friends through playing and watching and I went to uni partly because of basketball. When I started struggling with my mental health, I lost the passion for it, and everything seemed harder. One time it took me 40 minutes to tie my laces before the game I almost missed the start! I made this routine after that day. 

Before every game I warm up without my jersey on, just a warm up top. Then when we’re about to walk out on the court to start the game, I put my jersey on and wipe my feet on the lines at the corner of the court and high-five all my team mates. My jersey is like a superhero cape, look what Clark Kent can do when he’s dressed in blue and red! I’m wiping my feet of any emotions I have from that day or week (good or bad), same way you would if you got home with mud on your shoes – leave it outside! I’m allowing myself to enjoy the moment without distraction. The high-fives are me saying thank you to my team mates and coach for supporting me when I needed it.

A soon as the game starts, I’m fully present, appreciating the people around me and letting myself get lost in something creative.

3) I am not alone

I told my family, I told close friends, I told my boss, I told my basketball coach. Everyone had a story to share on mental health. It was amazing to hear their experiences. It made me realise, people are having these conversations, men are having these conversations! But it seems that they aren’t happening until things get pretty bad. 

Good news is though, the conversations are getting louder and it’s starting to be brought into the public eye more. Even some NBA players have been sharing their journeys with mental health like Kevin Love, Nate Robinson and DeMar Derozen. 

We all experience the same issues in life – pressure, stress, frustration. Share your story, you’ll be surprised the places you will find support and advice when you do.

4) I can help others one day

From feeling too scared to express how I truly felt, I’m now at a place where I can be open about my journey and since I have been speaking about it, I have had friends, family, people online have reached out with a question or concern. All I have to do is think about the people that gave time to me, the value I received from talking to feel the ability to share my story.

I hope people feel that they are able to talk about their mental health when they do need to, because I do not regret opening up about my struggles. There is no shame, there is no embarrassment asking for help.

Which reminds me…

5) The stigma is not real

Men are brave by sharing how they feel

Men should know asking for help is a sign of strength

Men can remove the stigma and support each other

I remind myself of these all the time. The day we can offer each other help with mental health the same way as if a friend turned to us with a broken leg will be a great day. 

If you are struggling with mental health, and feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

A Quiz for Introverts, Extroverts or Ambiverts?

Do you thrive in group situations or create your best work when alone? Are you a talker or a listener? Find out what it all means by answering 7 questions…

Being an introvert is different to being ‘shy’ or unconfident, if you feel like you have low self-esteem or low confidence, join our community to talk about it or check out these articles for more advice: