Men’s mental health has been described as a “silent crisis”. One in every eight men is struggling with a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety and men tend to feel more dissatisfied with their lives than women.
“Crisis” certainly does not seem like an exageration when considering male suicide rates. Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in UK. And Eighty-four men take their own lives in the UK each week.
Despite the mental health difficulties that men face, they are less likely to take time off work for mental health difficulties than woman and are more likely to feel ashamed for doing so. Perhaps more worryingly, men are less likely to seek help for their mental health difficulties than women, whether from friends or mental health professionals.
Why don’t men seek help?
One glaring issue that prevents men from seeking help is stigma. Social stereotypes exist of men as mentally and physically strong, fearless, dominant, and the hunter gatherer. It’s understandable that men are reluctant to seek help when they have grown up absorbing this message of what men “should be”.
The stigma surrounding men and mental health is perhaps best demonstrated by the recent surge in the use of the phrase “man up”. This phrase is often barked at men who are struggling to cope with some aspect of life. It implies that men should not struggle, should not seek help, and certainly should not complain. Young men seem to be most affected by this stigma: a recent survey showed that 61% of young men feel pressured to “man up” when faced with a challenge.
What can be done about stigma?
In order to encourage men to seek the support that they need we need to tackle stigma together.
One message that needs to be promoted is that nobody is immune from mental health difficulties. School is an ideal time to promote such a message, whilst young men are developing an understanding of themselves and their peers. By also teaching young men how to look after their mental health, schools can help shape the future coping habits of boys.
Male celebrities who speak openly about their mental health are helping to change public opinion. Charity campaigns are also useful, such as Curry and Chaat that encourages friends to meet up, talk, and support each other whilst eating curry, and Boys Do Cry, a campaign that is promoting the message that it’s OK for men to show emotion. We should work together to flip the message: asking for help requires strength and bravery and is not a sign of weakness.
Of course, tackling stigma is just one important step in improving the wellbeing of men, who also need better access to psychological therapies that fit with their needs, reduced pressures and expectations at work, increased research on the causes of suicide, and ways of reducing social isolation. But tackling stigma is certainly a crucial part of the fight against the “silent crisis”.
If you’re having difficulties with your mental health, there are several options that may help.
* Learn more about mental health difficulties on websites such as www.mind.org.uk or www.mentalhealth.org.uk.
* Talk to someone you trust about the issue, you may be surprised at how you feel after sharing the load.
* Call or e-mail Samaritans.
* Speak to your GP about your problems, they may prescribe you with medication or refer you for psychological support.
* If you may be interested in therapy, we offer cognitive-behavioural therapy here at Cognitive Practice, which can be helpful for a range of conditions including depression and anxiety. Contact us for more information.
Writer for Cognitive Practice