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The UK is experiencing a mental health crisis – and men are more susceptible due to the damaging stigma around seeking help.
Men often struggle to discuss or seek help with their mental health, with very serious consequences. Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and men are three times more likely to take their own life than women1. There are a number of reasons men may not feel comfortable opening up about their mental health struggles2.
However, with the statistics showing that the UK is experiencing a crisis around male mental health, it’s important to understand when and how to get help. Mental health problems can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, stress and low self-esteem, as well as conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder3. One in four people experience a mental health condition each year3, yet mental health issues can carry a greater social stigma than physical health issues.
A survey of 500 men aged between 16 and 24 showed that 24% were inflicting self-harm to deal with difficult emotions, while another 22% revealed they had considered self-harming4. It’s clear that mental health problems are extremely common and that those who suffer are certainly not alone.
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. If you’re suffering with your mental health, you are not alone and there are many ways you can start to resolve this, from trying meditation and exercise to starting therapy.
How to get help
The government has pledged more money to help address the mental health crisis in the UK2, and there are a number of vital resources if you feel you are struggling. The first thing to do is seek out 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 support5. Their treatment options may involve therapy – going to talk to a professional about what you are experiencing – or making some lifestyle changes or trying certain medications.
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, or feeling out of control in a way that means you may endanger yourself or others6. 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.
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 appointment7. 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, and just taking that first step can help immediately by reducing the pressure and feelings of isolation, and enabling you to feel more empowered.
Alcohol and mental health8
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, and 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 health9
Nutrition can also play a role in mental health. While it’s commonly accepted that diet is an important factor in physical health, it can also impact mental health. Those who suffer with physical health issues may experience mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as a result. However, 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.
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