6 November 2019

Your mental health needs cricket. Men are doing it tough in 2019.

Matt Heath: Help your mate deal with a sticky wicket
Mental Health
Your mental health needs cricket. Men are doing it tough in 2019. We are working harder and being better parents and partners but our mental health stats are not great.

There is male depression and anxiety all over the shop. According to the Chief Coroner's Report for 2018, 668 Kiwis took their lives. Of this sad toll, 475 were men.

On average last year, more than one New Zealand male took his own life each day. It's horrible. The causes are complex beyond measure. But knowing Kiwi males, one contributing factor might be our lack of communication.

Kiwi men tend not to talk about the difficult stuff with each other. Surely having someone to talk to, someone to listen, is going to help.

Depression comes in many forms and levels. It also comes and goes. Even the seemingly happiest people need their buddies. Dudes should feel like they can talk to each other about dude stuff. One on one or even better in a pack. This year Movember is focusing on happy hours.

Robert Dunne from the Movember Foundation wants workers to "use their happy hour to pick up the phone, drop someone a text or do anything to facilitate meaningful conversations.

Not just because it's nice, but because strong personal connections have a huge part to play in the fight against depression".

The Movember Happy Hours will take place daily from 5pm and will encourage everyone, particularly men, to reach out to friends and family. Which is bloody great.

But once you have reached out in happy hour, why not push for longer chats with friends? How about four hours at a T20, eight hours at a one-dayer or five days at a test.

The cricket season is well under way. So target a game. Invite friends who are struggling in life to come along with you. Invite friends who aren't as well to get together and spend time with each other.

Cricket is like no other sport. Bowling is weird, the pads and bats and helmets are weird, wickets are weird. The names of fielding positions are really weird. Fans are weird too.

We love cricket because it's exciting but also because it can be boring. The lulls, the downtimes. That's where cricket becomes quirky and different. That's where fans entertain themselves with in-jokes, banter and chants.

During the cricket there is plenty of time to connect with the people around you. To have the chat you haven't got round to with a friend who needs to talk. You can sit there with a beer in hand watching the game and subtly bring stuff up.

No need for awkward eye contact. Just stare straight ahead when nothing much is happening and say "so buddy I hear you've been having a tough time of late".

Then you're off and chatting. In between wickets and boundaries and centuries you can solve the problems of the world. Listen to your friends. Offer your terrible advice. Later on, you might put your arm around your mate and tell him he's a good bloke. Reassure him you are always around if he needs someone. He'll offer the same support to you. Beautiful.

Life is stressful. Work, romantic relationships, close cricket games. Take the Cricket World Cup Final for instance. Across a day in the stands, you have more than enough time to talk a few things out. You don't get that kind of time at the rugby. There's too much going on.

Cricket has kept me and my friends close for years and years. Heading along in stupid hats, holding stupid signs, carrying a bit of a thirst. Enjoying a nice sunburn with each other. It's one of the things I love most about summer.

My buddies and I were so devoted to getting together for the cricket we invented the Alternative Commentary Collective. Nowadays it's a commercial juggernaut enjoying millions of streams each cricket season. But it was invented as an excuse for a group of close mates to get together, watch the cricket and chat about our lives.

The Black Caps are playing England, Australia and India this season. It's the best line-up in years.

So pick one of these upcoming games. Contact your friends. Invite old mates. New mates. Set yourself up for the day and when the moment comes, talk about stuff. It's one of the most important things you can do for the people you care about.

A bit of mental health, a bit of cricket, a lot of sun. Happy days.