Men's Mental Health
Research suggests that the traditional ideals of what it means to be a 'man' may negatively impact men's mental health and discourage them from being open about how they’re feeling. Societal expectations about how men should behave and what masculinity is can be harmful to their mental health and lead to an environment of secrecy, making it less likely that someone will open up.
"Man up" has become a damaging phrase used in everyday life with connotations of hyper-masculinity. From childhood, the media shows us what men should be, and from a young age, we are taught that being a man is synonymous with power and athletic prowess. These themes being represented continuously in the news and media have lasting effects on boys and men.
Compared to women, men are far less likely to confide in a friend or partner to seek professional help. Talking about mental health might not fit within the idea of what it means to be masculine which could make men feel like a failure for having a problem, but taking the first step to talk about mental health takes exactly those traits the media portray, courage and strength.
Our Head of Psychology, Dr Heather Bolton, worked for several years as a clinical psychologist in an inner London prison. Her experience echoed some of the research findings: "I was amazed at how much effort some men made to portray a "tough guy" image when inside they were consumed with anxiety or depression. It often seemed to me that the harder the exterior that someone portrayed, the more turmoil there was going on underneath."
Suicide in men
Sadly, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 with one man dying globally by suicide every minute. Suicide prevention has presented a global challenge for many years, new figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that suicide rates in the UK in 2018 hit the highest level in 16 years, marking a 12% increase on the previous year.
In order for this to change we need to start opening up the mental health conversation and start appreciating that we all have mental health, that our state of mental wellbeing exists on a spectrum, and that our position on this spectrum is a fluid experience which fluctuates over time. Ultimately, by doing so, we can ensure we get people the right care, at the right time.
What helps maintain healthy mental wellbeing?
- Know yourself and recognise when there might be a problem.
It's normal to have "off days", experience fluctuations in sleep, motivation and appetite. But if symptoms like this persist for more than a fortnight, it could be worth checking in and exploring things more deeply.
- Remember, you don't need to be at breaking point before looking after your mental health.
Adopting a proactive approach to mental health empowers us to manage our mental wellbeing in a much more preventative way. In turn, we can spot potential problems and seek support much earlier.
- Bust the myth that you'll be wasting doctors time if you're talking to them about mental health.
Your GP talks about mental wellbeing with patients daily. And, if you do feel dismissed or discouraged by your GP, know that you're entitled to ask to see someone different within the practice.
- Experiment with showing vulnerability, and this can pave the way to being more open.
If you're not used to talking about how you feel, then it can be difficult to open up about your mental health. As the conversation becomes less stigmatised, we can all benefit.
- Check-in with your friends and colleagues to see how they're getting on too
If someone's behaviour changes or you notice they're withdrawing socially, open up a conversation and find out how they’re feeling.
Men's mental health needs more attention and opening up the conversation is key to changing the landscape and encouraging openness. Several campaigns and charities have brought men's mental health into the spotlight:
Amongst other things, Movember tackles men's mental health and suicide prevention. Viewing men's mental health through a male lens, they focus on early intervention, engaging men, and working to their strengths. By 2030, Movember wants to reduce the rate of male suicide by 25%.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably, otherwise known as CALM is a leading movement against male suicide. From the CALM cycle club through to their CALM student programme, they want to open up the conversation around mental health.