Stress and mental health is the theme of this year’s Men’s Health Week. We take a closer look at the issues facing men and why some struggle to talk about how they feel.
The reasons behind men’s mental health and their widespread inability to seek help are myriad and complex, but the bare facts are simple. Mental illness is the most dangerous health issue facing young men today; suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 35 1.
What’s going on?
Mental health issues can affect anyone, and it is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year1. Despite being so common, many people feel unable to seek medical help or tell people what they’re going through.
The most common mental health problems are depression and anxiety, and these can range in severity. Some people are able to manage their symptoms by taking care to eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and socialise. Many people also need prescribed medication, therapies, counselling and other types of support.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with a common mental disorder – one in five women compared to one in eight men1. However, many health professionals believe that there are many people suffering with undiagnosed mental health issues, and a large proportion are men.
This is because it appears that a large number of men – and some women – show signs of emotional and psychological distress that don’t fit with conventional approaches to diagnosis. Figures show that of the people who are rough sleepers, who are drug or alcohol dependent and who commit suicide, the overwhelming majority are men1.
These indicators show that the number of men struggling with their mental health is likely to be much higher than official medical statistics show – and they’re not seeking help.
Why is this happening?
The Men’s Health Forum suggests that the difference between the way men and women approach their mental health begins long before the development of a mental health disorder. In other words, improving men’s mental health has as much to do with prevention as with cure.
Men are more likely to lack some of the really important indicators of good mental health. These include a positive experience with education and an emotional support network. Boys perform less well than girls at school and are three times as likely to be excluded for poor behaviour1. There have also been studies that show, on average, men have lower access to the support of friends, family and community1.
The men who these observations apply to are more likely to develop mental health issues and are less likely to be able to cope. They might not recognise early warning signs of common mental health disorders or be less willing to act on these signs to get support – whether from loved ones or health services1.
Why is it hard for men to talk about mental health?
There are highly personal reasons why someone may not recognise when they’re struggling, or why they don’t seek support. Each individual is unique and what’s true for some men is almost certainly not the case for all. However, there is a common theme.
When asked on Twitter as part of a large survey, many men cited stigma and societal attitudes towards mental illness as the reasons men find it difficult to open up about mental health issues. With worries of how they would be perceived, whether as someone to be afraid of, weak or not a ‘real man’, it’s clear that lots of men don’t feel able to be honest3.
What can be done?
Men’s Health Week is the 13th-19th June and this year the theme is beating stress. It’s the initiative of the Men’s Health Forum, which aims to get men talking about stress and sharing ways to release it and prevent tension building into something more serious – like a mental health disorder4.
There will also be a Beat Stress service going live during the week, which encourages men to seek help from experts via a simple, anonymous text or email chat. There are plenty of online resources to help men who are struggling with stress or mental health concerns, or who know someone who is and want to help4.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or make an online enquiry.