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Male Mental Health

Today, I will be talking about men and mental health. This is a very serious topic, which needs to be spoken about more. We hear lots of females opening up about their mental health, thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, but it is much less common for men to do the same. We need to encourage men to open up about their thoughts and feelings as well as their mental health and show them it is okay to talk. It is also okay to seek help for mental health problems, it does not in any way make you weak. 

If you are in need of urgent help please call 999, if you are in urgent need of someone to talk to who will listen to you and guide you, call The Samaritans for free (24 hours a day) on this number: 116 123 

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, both men and women experience many of the same mental health problems however their willingness to talk about it are often very different. This can have an effect on the way in which their signs and symptoms are presented. Women often show sadness, whereas men may show anger or aggression, some may turn to alcohol and/or drugs as a method of coping. It is important to look out for the following warning signs in men as well as women:

  • Anger, irritability and aggression
  • Noticeable changes in mood, energy and appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Finding it hard to concentrate, often feeling restless and/or on edge 
  • Increased levels of worry or stress
  • Need for alcohol or drugs
  • Sadness and/or hopelessness 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Engaging in high-risk activities 
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviours
  • Thoughts and behaviours that interfere with work and social life
  • Unusual thinking which others find concerning

- This is only a short list of possible symptoms, please speak to your GP if you feel you are suffering from your mental health - 

Statistics of Male Mental Health:

  • 76% of suicides are by men. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50. 
  • 12.5% of men living in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders (this statistic only measures those who have been formally diagnosed).
  • Men are nearly three times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than women are.
  • Men are less likely than women to access psychological therapies, with only 36% of referrals being male. 
  • 73% of adults who 'go missing' are men. 
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men. 
  • Men receive significantly lower levels of social support from friends, family and the community. 

A survey conducted in 2016 with 1,112 employed men, reported that one in ten of the male workforce is significantly stressed. Up to 34% said that they were 'constantly feeling stressed and under pressure'. 
Long-term stress can often lead to various other problems, both physical and mental. It is important that people who find themselves feeling stressed most days, try to manage their activities and workload the best that they can and seek help.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, especially for men. There are a lot of stereotypes around men, saying that they need to be strong and 'manly' and that staying 'strong and silent' is alluring and attractive... this is not true. Men should not be encouraged to stay quiet about the things that are bothering them, they should not be brought up to believe that they need to stay strong all of the time and they should not be told that speaking about their feelings makes them any less of a man. Telling someone these things can be very damaging. Who are we to define what being a man should entail? 
We should be supportive of one another no matter what our genders are. We should look out for one another, listen to each other and guide each other through the hard times. No one should ever be made to feel as though they have no one to talk to. 

Over the last couple of years, suicide rates have risen significantly and we are hearing more devastating stories each and every week. We need to do more as a society, to help people, to raise awareness and better our understanding of mental health. We need to stop the stigma that surrounds mental health and encourage people to speak up and get the help that they need and that they deserve. Mental health problems do not make you weak, asking for help does not make you weak, you are not alone. 

Twitter Talk Responses Regarding This Topic:

Q1. Do you believe that there is more stigma surrounding male mental health than women's mental health?

Valory (@NoraNorse) said: 'No, mental illness creates stigma and discrimination for all of us. Self-acceptance is more important than the stigma.' 

Georgia said: 'I do not think there is necessarily a stigma, but I think sometimes men can feel as though they have to be 'strong' when they are just as strong as women are, with a mental health issue or not. But I think they should be encouraged to speak out more and they should not be ashamed.' 

In response to these, I said: 'Who are we to define what being 'strong' means? There are too many stereotypes surrounding men'.

Stewart (@AuthorSJB) said: 'I am not sure if there is more stigma, as stigma exists irrespective of anyone's sexual orientation. Maybe men feel there is more stigma, do we feel we need to be stronger? Maybe. My own personal experience began at the age of 21, back then I felt the stigma keenly, but today? No...' 

POLL: As a male suffering from a mental illness, would you be 'ashamed' or 'embarrassed' to take a day off work due to your mental health?

Results:

Yes = 40%
No = 40%
Maybe = 20% 

Harish (@HarishHere) said: 'I guess not... I would hope to get better by going to the office and speaking to my friends there. In India, you will barely see anyone alone. Everyone is interested in one another's lives and are ready to be friends with anyone and joke all day long. This support starts at the age of 4 and continues for life.' 

I responded to Harish, saying how lovely his community sounds and just how different it is in comparison to the UK. We here tend to keep everything to ourselves and struggle opening up to others due to the fear of judgement. 

Anonymous response: Said that they believe that the fear is worse than the reality and that speaking to a manager about mental health problems is often not as scary as it is thought to be. Nowadays, most bosses are appreciative of mental health problems. 

Q2. Do you think that stereotypes such as 'men need to be strong' and phrases such as 'don't be such a girl' are damaging for young boys to hear? 

Stewart (@AuthorSJB) said: 'Definitely, unfortunately. It is time that those stereotypes were consigned to history where they belong.'

Georgia said: 'I do. Because A) It makes it seem like it is bad to be female and B) It makes it seem as though boys shouldn't feel the things that they do or get upset etc'  

Zoe (Artsytype_83) said: 'Definitely! I felt sorry for my brothers as my mum always said 'don't be a girl', she would say it to me too but I would respond 'I can't help it, I was born a girl it is in my DNA!', but my brothers could not say that. 

 

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Twitter Talk about male mental health. 

 

Resources

Mind Charity - A personal story by Lee Cambule
National Institute of Mental Health - Men and Mental Health 
Men's Health Forum - Key data on Mental Health 
The Telegraph - The Male Mental Health Crisis is Real: So Why is it Still Being Ignored?

The Samaritans Website 

Helplines:

The Samaritans - 116 123

Rethink - 0300 5000 927

Bi-Polar UK - 0333 323 3880

SANEline - 0300 304 7000 - National out of hours telephone helpline which offers emotional support and information for those suffering from their mental health.

Mind Infoline - 0300 123 3393

NO Panic - 0800 138 8889

CALM (Campaigning Against Living Miserably) - 0800 58 58 58 - For young men under the age of 35.