In recognition of Men’s Health Week (June 14th-20th) we caught up to do a Q&A with 2 current male athletes competing on the UK Beach Tour to discuss men’s mental health. We sat down with England Beach Volleyball Athlete and one half of Beach Volleyball Team Bialokoz/Batrane, Issa Batrane, as well as the 2020 Volleyball England young volunteer of the year Lewis Fenech, who might better be known as The Volleyball Addict.
Q1: Introduce yourself to our readers?
Issa: “Hey, my name is Issa Batrane and I am a professional beach volleyball athlete, representing England and Great Britain internationally as well as competing on the UK Beach Tour.”
Lewis: “My name is Lewis Fenech and I compete on the UK Beach Tour. I played semi-professional indoor volleyball in Spain and also competed in the Volleyball England indoor national league for a number of years.
My beach journey has just started but I'm looking to push myself and climb the ranks on the tour.”
Q2: What do you think about when we talk about Mental Health?
Issa: “For me especially in sports but also in life I believe mental health is being completely comfortable in who you are as a person and that aspect of self-love. You need to be able to appreciate yourself before you expect others to do the same in my opinion.”
Lewis: “Mental health for me is making sure that you are happy within yourself and in what you are doing. If that's taking a break from your day to sit with a coffee and a friend to ease the stress, or if your way of taking a load off is to workout, go for a walk or anything that generally makes you feel happy that's what I think about when I think about mental health.”
Q3: With it being Men’s Health Week why do you think mental health in men specifically is important to discuss and open up about?
Issa: “I believe that we far too often underplay or ignore the stigma around mental health which stops many men from seeking help when they need it most. It is something that is quite literally killing so many and like with any topic in order to understand and normalise seeking help it is something we need to discuss. We need to normalise that it is ok to not feel ok but it is also ok and completely normal to talk to someone about it. Being there for your friend even if it is just to have a drink and chat can be huge in helping someone if they are going through difficult times themselves.”
Lewis: “I only recently found out that this week was men's health week when I myself had a rough day and posted my feelings on my social media, to which I had a massive response of people offering help and sharing their experiences which was a great help to me. I hope to be able to help others by sharing my experience as well.
Men are naturally closed off regarding their mental health because you worry that you will be judged or people would perceive you to be weak, but after some reflection and friends and loved ones talking to me I found that you can't always be 100% and actually sharing that with people is actually very courageous.
Even if you don't want to share your feelings on a large platform like Instagram or Facebook if you speak to your friends or family they will always have a non-judgemental ear to speak into and I'm sure they will be able to help.”
Q4: Finally, do you have any tips or words of advice for our readers, both male and female who might have difficult day in order to help them through it?
Issa: “For me it is always important to understand that what works for me might not always work you but I recommend everyone looks to find something simple that helps them feel better when feeling down. I always try to look into areas like am I getting enough sleep, am I eating well and am I trying to connect with loved ones and friends to be sociable. Sometimes it is just having a positive mix of a few of these things that can have a significant impact on your own mental health. That is why should you ever feel in a bad place or just need someone to talk to I am always happy to lend a listening ear and help where I can.
I am also a big believer in taking part in exercise and physical activity as well as doing something you enjoy! The natural release of endorphins can help boost that feel-good factor which can be a huge in releasing stress levels and increasing some self-love and happiness.”
Lewis: “Tips for mental health I feel change massively from person to person so I will share what works well for me when I am feeling down/upset or just generally not 100%.
First is always a hug from a loved one. It is something so small but even studies have shown a long hug can help reduce stress levels massively.
Secondly, if I am alone or just away from my loved ones, looking through photos of them is so nice. I look at pictures of my son, my cat I look through funny videos of my family and friends and with that it calms me down and brings me into a much better headspace.”
So as we emerge from what will hopefully be the worst of the pandemic, questions, concerns and anxiety might still remain for a lot of people. During men’s health week and at all stages throughout the year we are encouraging you all, male and female to talk about how you feel with friends and loved ones as well as understanding that it is ok to not always feel ok. It is not possible to always be at 100% but it is always possible for you to pick how you tackle it and what you try to do in order to help keep yourself feeling well.