Ups and downs of mental illness in men

The ups and downs of mental illness in men captured in film

Happy Sad Man — Docu-film by Genevieve Bailey

Jane from Jane James Consultancy has given me permission to share her post about this docufilm which charts the ups and downs of mental illness in men.

I haven’t seen the film yet but I’ve contacted the filmmaker to see how I can view it here in the UK. You already know how much this film appeals to me, given my background. But I also want to highlight and raise awareness of mental illness and men.

Moreover, I’d like to encourage conversations with men around how they see mental illness, and look at ways we can all help.

Most of us know how difficult it is to get men to open up or to talk about their mental health. Perhaps it’s a film we can all watch with our hubbies/partners or share it with other men you know? Get the conversation going……………………..

A brief synopsis

HAPPY SAD MAN gives unforgettable voice to the complex emotional landscapes we can all traverse. Touching, funny and tender, this must-see documentary is set to shine a light on and change the dialogue around masculinity and mental health today. Exploring hopes, anxieties, joy and darkness the raw vulnerability of these stories will inspire you to hold some of the men in your life that bit closer.

Over to Jane and her post

Happy sad man David showing the ups and downs of mental illness
Happy sad man — David

I came across this film on Eventbrite. A two part event from Australia.

Genevive is a film maker from Bondi Beach, Australia who has spent years making this documentary. If follows a group of five men – all ages and backgrounds in their journey through the ups and downs of mental ill health and their strength in finding ways to make a difference to others.

I’ve been interested in mental ill health and wellbeing for many years and seen diverse projects/films/discussions trying to capture the stigma and loneliness felt by those living with mental ill health – none touched this film.

Ivan is an outreach worker
Ivan is an outreach worker

The sensitivity, respect and inclusion Genevieve showed, John, Jake, Grant, David, Ivan, Dave and their families/friends conveyed the real range of emotions felt. The passage of time from the 50s/60s to today hasn’t demolished the stigma mental ill health causes. Still a taboo subject.

It’s always struck me – where does this stigma come from? We aren’t born with it. If we’ve learned it, we can surely unlearn it? Why does the mind scare us so much that we feel unable to say ‘hey, how are you feeling? I’m really concerned about you’….. The mind is just part of the body. We wouldn’t fear asking ‘how’s you leg? healed ok?’.

Happy sad man

Raising awareness of Mental illness on Bondi Beach
Happy sad man — Grant, A keen surfer who has bipolar — Bondi Beach raising awareness

tells the story of a group of men. An emotional awakening of understanding on how these men feel on their rollacoaster journeys. Little gems are littered throughout the films.

Grant’s synergy of living with mental ill health is like a recipe. You have to balance everything. Using fluorescent colours to start a conversation on Bondi Beach about mental health every Friday morning at 6.30am.

Flouro Friday is now on 200 beaches across 40 countries. Using bright clothes and surfing to spark a conversation. Can we adapt this idea to fit the communities we live in?

David’s wet dog perfume was another highlight. His goal wasn’t to make money but to get people smiling and talking.

Jake from docufilm Happy Sad Man --- portrayal of men and mental illness
Jake from docufilm Happy Sad Man — portrayal of men and mental illness

Jake’s journey from film maker to war photographer was stark. Even in such dire circumstances he was able to teach children in Syria, Aleppo etc to skateboard and do the things that kids everywhere do. He also taught them how to make films on their mobiles to capture the environment they live in the the futility of war.

The overall message of hope was uplifting.

There is still time today to register on Eventbrite to watch this outstanding documentary and join the live Q&A session tomorrow.

John says he's an old hippy and he has a  mental illness
John says he’s an old hippy and he has a mental illness

You can follow Genevieve Bailey at:

You can find out more about the film here. And, like I said, I’ve sent messages to Genevieve to find out how I can view the film here in the UK. I’ll let you know how I get on, whether I get to watch the film and what I think of it.

Over to you


Have you any thoughts on this docufilm? Have you seen it? If not, is it something you’d watch — and share? I’m really interested to hear what you think and I look forward to any comments. Tho’ not sure I could answer any questions — until I’ve seen it 😉


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

30 thoughts on “Ups and downs of mental illness in men”

    1. I would love to see this film. This conversation needs to be heard and be available in our times. Please let us know where to find this.
      Thanks for highlights.

  1. This is a great post! I mentioned on your post on anxiety, the importance of addressing anxiety in men. This post highlights mental health on a whole for men. I agree with other comments that this is great to get the conversation started.

  2. Do you think that men don’t speak because they don’t want to? or because they can’t find an appropriate outlet? If the former, then any attempt is on a hiding to nothing.
    And, personally, I’m in the former category. I have no desire to discuss my mental health with anybody.

    1. I’ve no one else to ask other than the men in my family and friends circle and they’ve all been in some sort of counselling (apart from hubby). And he/we have just managed to convince (after five years) his best friend to seek professional support, and he is now seeing a counsellor.

      Twitter ‘friends’ all say they’re too scared to open up to anyone but admit they can’t say why. A few said they don’t want to open up a can of worms. I think they’re afraid they’ll break down crying and that they won’t be able to stop. Which is how I felt years ago – like a pressure cooker about to go off!

      Can I ask why you wouldn’t want to discuss it P? You actually surprise me, I’d have thought you would? Or would you just talk to your wife if you had any mental health issues? Please excuse my asking P, I don’t wish to offend you.

      1. For me? Well, I suppose it’s a case of “nobody else’s business”. I’d rather not share with other people. But then I’ve never really felt like I couldn’t cope. I suppose in my case I could share with my wife but it’s never really cropped up.
        Unlike you, I don’t think I know anybody – male or female – who has been in therapy, but then I suppose it’s not something that people are comfortable dropping into the conversation. Maybe people just feel more comfortable with you than they do with me? Maybe you’re more approachable? That could well be.

      2. I think for me, London perhaps is a bit different, it’s such a huge place that we keep our own little community tight. Then we talk about anything and everything. Noticing when someone’s out of sorts and asking if they want to talk about what’s bothering them.

        When I see someone (family/friend – I don’t go up to strangers lol) who looks really low, I’ll always ask if they’ve had suicidal thoughts and some are shocked but they’ll admit they have. Then it’s easy to have the conversation about getting help.

        When people say they’re okay and it’s clear that they’re not, I’ll open up a conversation with them about depression/anxiety and so on.

        But yes, my step-daughters say that I’m a real empath and approachable so people swarm towards me with their problems lol.

  3. Hello Caz, I haven’t seen it, but I just watched the trailer and it gave me goosebumps. So, yes, I would watch it. People can request a screening anywhere around the globe. I have now shared the Happy Sad Film Facebook post on my business Facebook page. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could one day just be who we are and not keep coming up against the concrete jungle (our artificial constructions).

    1. Yes, that’s how I felt watching the trailer Sean. I’ve requested a screening and I’m looking forward to viewing it in full now. That’s great that you’ve shared it too, as have other commenters and I’ve also put it on my Facebook page.

      Yes, that would be amazing, everyone just ‘being’, knowing, understanding and empathic with no need to hide or be afraid, would make the world a better place.

  4. This sounds like an amazing documentary! It seems like the stigmas around mental health are especially strong for men, so it’s wonderful to have that out there and explored in such a colorful way. I especially love the idea of Flouro Fridays. I’m glad that’s caught on. 😊

    1. Although progress is being made on this front, for me there is still too much platitudinous lip-service towards proactive mental illness prevention for men (and even boys), as well as treatment.

      When it comes to the social reality of (at least for the foreseeable future) the prevalence of untreated mental illness in men, I’m often left frustrated by the proclamations and conduct coming from one of the seven pillars of our supposedly enlightened culture—the media, or more specifically that of entertainment and news.

      They will state the obvious, that society must open up its collective minds and common dialogue when it comes to far more progressively addressing the real challenge of more fruitfully treating and preventing such illness in general; however, they will typically fail to address the problem of ill men refusing to open up and/or ask for help due to their fear of being perceived by peers, etcetera, as weak/non-masculine. The social ramifications exist all around us; indeed, it is endured, however silently, by males of/with whom we are aware/familiar or to whom so many of us are closely related.

      This was exemplified following the tragic suicide of the great actor/comedian Robin Williams.

  5. Even in this day and age, there remains a mentality out there, albeit perhaps subconsciously: Men can take care of themselves against sexual perpetrators, and boys are basically little men. Perhaps it’s the same mentality that might explain why the book Childhood Disrupted was only able to include one man among its six interviewed adult subjects, there being such a small pool of ACE-traumatized men who are also willing to formally tell his own story of chronic childhood abuse and significant ACE trauma. Even with anonymity, apparently many men would prefer not to ‘complain’ to some stranger/author about his torturous childhood, as that’s what ‘real men’ do.

    I’ve noticed over many years of Canadian news-media consumption that when the victims are girls their gender is readily reported as such; however, when they’re boys, they’re usually referred to gender-neutrally as children. It’s as though, as a news product made to sell the best, the child victims being female is somehow more shocking than if male. Also, I’ve heard and read news-media references to a 19-year-old female victim as a ‘girl’, while (in an unrelated case) a 17-year-old male perpetrator was described as a ‘man’.

    1. Yep, even in these current times, there’s still a lack of adult males coming forward. I’m so glad my sons are aware of mental illness and have many (CBT) skills I taught them when I was training to be a mental health nurse. They’ll go see their counsellor if and when they need to — or they call me.

      I hope you let your Canadian newspaper know what they’re doing! 😉

  6. After reading its news stories a few years ago, I queried via two emails the Burnaby Now’s editor, but I received no reply. All of which made me wonder: does such lopsided gender referencing in hard-news coverage reveal the mentality of the general news consumership, since news-media tend to sell us what we want or are willing to consume?

    Perhaps also worth noting is that, when I talked with her over the phone, a then Vancouver Sun editor made thickly sarcastic reference to “the poor little boys” whose school-grade averages were, unlike those of their female peers, notably falling yet basically being ignored by Canadian provincial governments and sociology/education academia at the time (the early to mid 1990s).

    However, maybe that shouldn’t surprise us, according to what the author of The Highly Sensitive Man (2019, Tom Falkenstein) writes at the beginning of Chapter 1: “You only have to open a magazine or newspaper, turn on your TV, or open your browser to discover an ever-growing interest in stories about being a father, being a man, or how to balance a career with a family. Many of these articles have started talking about an apparent ‘crisis of masculinity.’ The headlines for these articles attempt to address male identity, but often fall into the trap of sounding ironic and sometimes even sarcastic and critical: ‘Men in Crisis: Time to Pull Yourselves Together,’ ‘The Weaker Sex,’ ‘Crisis in Masculinity: Who is the Stronger Sex?’ and ‘Search for Identity: Super-Dads or Vain Peacocks’ are just a few examples. They all seem to agree to some extent that there is a crisis. But reading these articles one gets the impression that no one really knows how to even start dealing with the problem, let alone what a solution to it might look like. One also gets the impression from these articles that we need to keep any genuine sympathy for these ‘poor men’ in check: the patriarchy is still just too dominant to allow ourselves that luxury. … ”

    Thank you for having allowed me to be long-winded.

  7. That’s awful, hearing that in the background!!! I’ve complained to the media about all kinds of things and generally get a response. It’s painstakingly arduous having to write to them, but they won’t change it if we don’t complain — and loudly.

    Hey it’s okay to rant and be long-winded. sometimes it’s the only chance we get 🙁

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