Let’s Put the ‘Men’ in ‘Mental Health’
One in four people experience a mental health condition every year, yet talking about mental health carries a greater stigma than talking about health issues. The facts speak for themselves: 1 in 8 men suffer from a common mental health condition. Suicide is the biggest killer in men under 45. In the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own lives than women and it has consistently accounted for approximately three-quarters of all suicides in the UK since the mid-90s.
Seeking or accepting help for a mental health condition can be a real challenge. Admitting that they need help can seem like a sign of weakness to some men and this can mean that they feel unable to ask for help. This is perpetuated by sexist phrases, such as ‘Man up’ or being told to ‘Be a man’. Phrases like this suggest that showing emotions such as sadness or sharing their feelings is unacceptable for men. There is a false stereotype of a ‘real man’ where the characteristics isolate and force them to hide their true emotions. Unfortunately, it is this concealment that can lead to serious mental health problems and in the worst case scenario, suicide.
Instead of seeking support, often they turn to unhealthy ways to cope with their mental health, such as through substance abuse, anger and violence or self-medication through alcohol or drugs. This is why men are twice as likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. Worryingly, alcohol can exacerbate depression and can increase impulsive behaviours, making it a risk factor for suicide.
Other risk factors include workplace pressure and the responsibility that some men may feel for their families and their ability to protect them by being the ‘breadwinner’ of the family. In addition, it can be that men may find themselves isolated because of their circumstances and unable to reach out. The director of a company; a retired, widowed man; a young apprentice: all of these people can share the same sense of loneliness and isolation, regardless of their background, class, experience or financial status. Someone who is experiencing depression or other mental health conditions may be at risk of suicide, but this is not always the case.
Suicide has a devastating ripple effect on family, friends and communities who may struggle to understand why someone has decided to take their own life. They may not have been aware of the suffering that the person who has completed suicide may have been in and this can make it incredibly hard to come to terms with.
Suicide is distressing, but it can be prevented by knowing the warning signs and being proactive in supporting with someone why may be presenting these. Some of the signs to look out for are:
• Expressing the intent to hurt or kill themselves
• Writing or talking about death
• Showing feelings of rage or anger
• Acting in a reckless way without consideration of the consequences
• Increasing alcohol or drug use
• Isolating themselves from friends, family or society.
• Trouble in sleeping
• Saying goodbye or ‘putting affairs in order’
• Significant changes in mood
This list is not exhaustive and someone who completes suicide may not present any of these signs at all. If someone you know or care about is presenting some or all of these signs, make sure that you talk to them directly about how they might be feeling. You could suggest visiting the GP with them to support them. If you think there is an immediate danger to the person, phone 999 and do not leave them unattended. If you yourself recognise these signs in yourself or want to access help for a mental health condition, read below for some advice about where to find advice and support.
How Can You Ask for Support with Your Mental Health
Ignore the old adages to ‘man up’ or to ‘grow a pair’. The strongest thing a man can do is seek help if they are struggling with their mental health. This can sometimes feel like a great obstacle. It is common to feel unsure of who to ask and what reaction will be received. It’s ok to ask for help even if you are not sure if you are experiencing a specific mental health condition. See below for some sources of support that you could access:
Your GP can help identify support that is appropriate to your needs. They might refer you to other services, such as talking therapies; they might prescribe medication; or they might give you advice and information to help you.
A Family Member or Close Friend
Because they know you so well, it is likely that they will have already spotted that you might not be coping as well. Talking to someone who already knows you can relieve some of the worries about judgement. They might be able to support you with errands or responsibilities to take some of the pressure off you in the short term.
You might be referred by your doctor or in some cases, you can contact therapists directly. Therapists are trained to discuss and explore individual issues in a confidential environment. For some people, this feels less threatening than discussing their emotions with someone close to them.
Some communities have peer support groups for like-minded people or people who are experiencing the same condition. They meet regularly and this can be a source of additional information as well as a place to find out strategies to help you cope.
Some workplaces have EAP (Employee Assistance Programmes) or support groups where you can access information support and help in a completely confidential setting.
We have a range of services to support mental health and wellbeing in your organisation. Please get in touch for more information: [email protected] or 01977 210220