The stats tell us that 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health problem each year, but this is based on us reporting our difficulties which we don't always do. This especially true of men. If we don't talk about our mental health and seek support, we can limit our ability to make improvements. The conseuqences of this can be fatal. Raising awareness of mental health is therefore essential. This blog provides a comprehensive overview of why men's mental health matters and what we can do to make positive change.
Men's Mental Health Statistics: Breaking The Silence
Research shows that men are less likely to talk about their mental health and seek support. This is reflected by just 36% of NHS referrals to therapy services being for men. There's a similar imbalance that I see in my private practice.
Alarming Facts: Suicide Rates Among Men
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 and around 75% of deaths from suicide are men. Supporting men to open up about mental health is not just important, it is absolutely essential for suicide prevention and has the potential to save lives.
The Role of Stigma: Men's Mental Health Challenges
One of the challenges with mental health for men is stigma and the fear of admitting going through a difficult time. Traditionally and stereotypically, men often have an expectation to be strong and to provide. This social and personal expectation can result in an internalised belief that emotions or distress are signs of weakness.
As social beings, we’ve come from a tribe mentality where being part of a group was vital for our survival. While we’ve evolved, we still have an inbuilt need for this connection with others and so the possibility of being rejected by our group – whether our family, friends or colleagues - can feel highly threatening. For men in particular, the fear of judgement or loss of status can therefore act as a barrier to seeking support.
Common Mental Health Issues in Men: Beyond the Statistics
Common mental health problems include depression and anxiety disorders. The statistics show a higher prevalence of both in women, but this may be down to women being more open in seeking support than men, and so the figures for men being under-reported.
Recognising The Signs: Mental Health Difficulties in Men
Experiencing a range of emotions that come and go is a normal and shared part of being human. Sometimes our emotions become intense and we may feel stressed, overwhelmed, low, anxious or afraid for prolonged periods. When this happens, it can impact on our day to day living and our ability to function in the way we would usually.
Emotional, Physical, Cognitive and Behavioural Changes
Mental health difficulties affect us emotionally, physically, cognitively and behaviourally. All mental health problems have their own symptoms so this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but here is a brief overview of some of the common signs across the different problems that may be helpful to be aware of.
It is normal to experience a range of emotions. Changes in emotions that seem extreme or excessive, are prolonged or out of character can be an indicator of difficulties with mental health and wellbeing. This may include:
Irritability or anger
Prolonged periods of feeling low in mood, anxious or numb.
Our body is a great communicator. Changes in the way we feel physically can tell us a lot about out mental health. Warning signs to look out for may include:
Changes in energy levels – lacking of energy or a feeling restless and agitated.
Changes in sleep patterns – difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual.
Changes in appetite – lacking appetite or overeating.
Difficulties with focus and concentration.
Cognitive processes refer to our thoughts - the way we think, our internal dialogue, our perspective. When struggling with our mental health and wellbeing, our outlook tends to be more negative. Examples of unhelpful shifts in thinking may include:
Patterns of negative thinking.
Ruminating over the past – brooding over things, replaying difficult events.
Worrying about the future.
Our behaviour refers to what we do. This may be an observable action, or omission of an action. Some behavioural changes associated with common mental health problems can include:
Social withdrawal – seeing and speaking to others less.
Self-neglect – not taking care of personal care, hygiene and diet.
Avoidance of things that trigger the unwanted emotions.
Drug or alcohol use – research indicates men may be more prone to misusing substances.
Hypervigilance – actively looking out for threats and danger.
Promoting Mental Health: Strategies for Men
Take Notice: A Key Step in Men's Mental Health
We can’t change how we feel if we don’t know how we feel and take notice in the first place. Take time to check in on how you are feeling. Notice any changes and consider what may have triggered these. For example, if you recognise feeling stressed, take a few minutes to understand what brought those feelings on. Spotting these changes can help you spot early signs of mental health difficulties and give you a greater opportunity to prevent the problem from escalating.
Break The Silence: The Power of Talking About Mental Health
When we keep problems to ourselves, they can build up and feel insurmountable. We may find ourselves going around in circles mentally and get stuck in negative thought spirals. When we talk to others, we open ourselves up to different ways of thinking by hearing the views and perspectives of others. Sometimes this can help us reframe our problems and look at them with a different lens.
Breaking the silence by talking about mental health can not only help you but also others. It can help us collectively reduce stigma and normalise that any of us can struggle with our mental health. We may also find that others relate to the way we are feeling and can share similar experiences that make both them and us feel less alone. Try talking to someone you trust and find supportive.
Seek Support: Options for Men with Mental Health Problems
There is effective treatment and support available for mental health problems. The first step to improving mental health is acknowledging that you are not feeling yourself and taking the decision to seek support. Contact your GP who can advise on the different options available to you within your local areas. This may include medication or psychological therapies.
Crisis Support: Emergency Support For Mental Health
We wouldn't hesistate to access emergency support for our phyical health, and our mental health should be no different. If you are in crisis, you can contact the Samaritans, access urgent NHS support, dial 999 for an ambulance or attend A&E.
Brighter Minds: Inidvidual Therapy and Workplace Wellbeing
At Brighter Minds, we offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy on an individual basis to help you understand and improve your difficulties by making changes to the way you think and behave.
To promote mental health at a larger scale, we also run workshops and webinars for workplace mental health and wellbeing. We spend a lot of time at work and normalising these conversations in the workplace can be a powerful way to make change.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, get in touch.