We consider the stigma around men and mental health and the importance of changing perspectives, and also share advice on how and when to seek help.
It is thought that one in eight men have a common mental health problem, yet research shows that men often struggle to discuss or seek help for psychological issues.1
One UK study found that 28% of men did not seek help for mental health issues, compared to 19% of women.2
In the UK, men are only around half as likely as women to access psychological therapies, and it’s also believed they are less likely to speak to family or friends about mental health issues.
There is also evidence that men are more likely to turn to harmful coping methods such as substance abuse.1
All this can have very serious consequences, one being the worrying male suicide rates.
Around 75% of UK deaths from suicide are men, and suicide is the most common cause of death for men under 50.3
Why don’t men talk about mental health?
A big factor in this issue is the damaging stigma around mental health problems. One in four people experiences a mental health problem each year, yet the stigma around them is greater than with physical illness.4
This stigma tends to affect men disproportionately, and societal expectations and traditional gender roles are thought to play a big part in this.
The concept of ‘manliness’ as being strong and in control can mean it is seen as a weakness to ask for help. If men feel a pressure to appear strong, this can stop them from opening up. This can both cause and exacerbate mental health problems.1
For this reason, government bodies and charities, such as Movember, are working to change societal concepts of masculinity in relation to mental health and asking for help.
Men and mental health
Men and women are affected differently by mental health issues. For example, it’s thought that women are more likely to experience common mental disorders.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that men are immune to mental illnesses. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, stress and low self-esteem, as well as conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are all experienced by men too.
In fact, mental health problems are extremely common among men. If you are experiencing issues, you are absolutely not alone.1
It’s time to open up
As discussed, social pressures often mean that men find it harder to open up and discuss feelings of vulnerability or ask for help. But the evidence is clear that bottling up these feelings and resorting to sometimes destructive coping mechanisms can make things worse.5
If you’re suffering with depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue, you are not alone. There are many options to help you deal with your issue, and the sooner you seek help the better.
How to get help
The government has pledged more money to help address the mental health crisis in the UK, and there are a number of vital resources if you feel you are struggling.
The first thing to do is seek help. Going to see your GP is often the best way to do this, as they will be able to assess how serious your mental health problems are and organise support.6
They will work with you to decide on treatment options, which may involve therapy, lifestyle changes or trying certain medications.
There are various types of therapy available, from counselling to hypnotherapy, group therapy to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
If you feel your situation is too urgent to wait for a GP appointment, you may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
What is a mental health crisis?
A mental health crisis is when you experience one or more of the following:
- suicidal feelings
- self-harming behaviour
- extreme anxiety or panic attacks
- paranoia, hearing voices or having hallucinations
- feeling out of control in a way that means you may endanger yourself or others
If you experience any of these things, it’s important to contact a support service to help you resolve the situation or support you through it.7
If you think you need immediate medical attention you should visit the Accident & Emergency department of your nearest hospital or call an ambulance.
If you are in urgent need of support but you don’t think you are a danger to yourself or others, you can arrange an emergency GP appointment.
If you just want to talk to someone, open up about how you are feeling and receive some support and advice, you can call a telephone support service such as the Samaritans, CALM or SANEline.
With mental health, it’s important to seek help early on before things escalate
There are many ways to support and alleviate mental health problems. Just taking that first step can help immediately by reducing the pressure and feelings of isolation, and enabling you to feel more empowered.
And remember, opening up to friends and family members can be just as important. Emotional support from the people closest to you can make all the difference.
Alcohol and mental health
Some people suffering from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, can turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. However, alcohol can actually increase stress and anxiety.
Getting drunk is often an avoidance strategy used instead of confronting the underlying issues, such as what’s causing you to feel stressed. It’s important to know that alcohol is a depressant.
This means that it can contribute to feelings of depression over the long term. There is a strong link between depression and alcohol.8 Drinking alcohol can increase the frequency and severity of depressive episodes – as well as reducing the efficacy of antidepressants.
What’s more, alcohol can also interrupt your normal sleep patterns, which in turn can also leave you feeling tired and negatively impact your mood.
Nutrition and mental health
While it’s commonly accepted that diet and nutrition have a big impact on physical health, what you eat can also impact your mental health.
Those who suffer with physical health issues may experience mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as a result.
Eating well, staying hydrated and avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and sugar, can also help balance your emotional state. Food with essential fatty acids, such as fish, poultry, nuts, avocados and dairy are important for brain function.
Trans fats or foods with partially hydrogenated oils, such as shop-bought cakes and biscuits, can negatively impact your mood.
Protein, on the other hand, contains amino acids, which helps control your blood sugar levels and makes up the chemicals that your brain needs to regulate feelings and thoughts.
Eating lean proteins, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese nuts, seeds and legumes, can help keep this in good balance.
From making dietary and lifestyle changes to seeking professional health, there are many tools you can use to feel in better control of your mental health.
But with men less likely to seek help from others and more likely to resort to suicide and self-harm, it’s important to remember that there are many support services out there.
Taking the first step in seeking help can make all the difference.