As Men’s Health Awareness month draws to a close I want to talk about mental health as there is still SO much work to be done here.
Why is there stigma attached to openly talking about it with one another?
What can help those who are struggling with depression, anxiety and worse?
Lockdown meant business networking moved online, which worked brilliantly for many including myself. I was fortunate to meet some fantastic people from all over the country, including a gorgeous lady called Jo from the charity manhealth.org.uk. By the way, it’s well worth taking a look at what they do. Jo shared some shocking stats with me, including that the suicide rate for men in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest for two decades. Data from the Office for National Statistics found there were 5691 suicides registered! That is a tough read is it not!
Apparently ManHealth are the only voluntary sector organisation using a proactive approach to address this issue – three cheers for them and their valuable work!
So why is it so hard for men to talk about their mental health issues in this day and age? I suspect there may be multiple factors involved:
Men's conversations are different
I often ask my husband what he talks about when he gets together with male friends. It’s rarely anything deep and meaningful. This seems to be echoed across many men I know which means that there is a real lack of offloading. Frequently men have an innate desire to protect their partners from how they are feeling, so where do they turn if they can’t have that conversation with their friends?
It’s not the done thing to show weakness
This old stigma is still very much alive and kicking - sadly. How often do you still hear people say ‘man up’ to boys. No wonder they turn into men who can’t risk showing any weakness. Isn’t it tragic that mental health challenges can be perceived as weak and not as strength of character for sharing something so important?
Male culture & pride is alive & kicking
I continue to see peer pressure very much alive and kicking in grown adults. Be it the drinking culture, the macho, tough face which must be shown when challenged to complete some ridiculous task on a night out (which all too-often ends in injury) or simply the way in which men interact day to day. The old stereotype of what men should be is still all too prevalent - and is just as pernicious as the images women so often feel obliged to conform to.
A Lack of recognition
Research suggests that some men struggle to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves as they are less able to speak openly about emotions. This means they are less likely to reach out for support. My experience in a number of cases has been that men also run a mile when they see someone struggling - they are often fearful and don’t know what the right thing to do is. It’s far easier to ignore it and hope the issue goes away than to get personally involved.
A male friend of mine is always refreshingly open publicly on social media about his struggles and how tough mental health challenges are for him. If only there were more like him! A recent post he shared gave some insight into his coping mechanisms:
See each day as a new opportunity to start afresh.
Recognise the triggers and give yourself allowances - Feeling trapped with work being so full on, stress due to what’s to come, a build-up of a tough week, the change in weather, lack of sunlight in the days....
Start again an hour at a time and keep moving forward.
Plan things out in a way that works for you
Organise everything mentally and physically - and keep on going.
Live in the now.
It's great to have awareness months like this one however there is so much more that needs to be done to make it more acceptable to talk about men’s health challenges – both physical and mental. Let’s keep sharing so that others know they are not alone.
What might help
Talk to your GP who can support and signpost you.
Look for local support groups for the condition you are experiencing.
Seek Facebook and other online forums where like-minded people meet.
Find trusted people to talk to about what you are experiencing.
Keep a journal or log of your symptoms and see if you notice any triggers or patterns.
Look out for podcasts and books on the topics you are facing and see what they suggest might help you. You can read more about finding ways to fit podcasts into your really busy day, in our blog here
Try different actions until you find something that works for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’.
Review your nutrition as it can dramatically impact mental health (Dr Drew Ramsey is a great resource)
Read our blog - 'Is there such a thing as a male menopause?' here. You may relate to some of the symptoms.
Read our blog - 'How to boost testosterone levels - case study' here.