Men and mental health: Tackling the stigma

men & mental health (cropped)
17-05-2016

Mental health problems can affect absolutely anyone regardless of age, gender, race or social background.

Despite this, studies show that certain mental conditions affect men and women differently. Research also shows that the way men and women react to mental health and show support of mental health difficulties can be very different.

Current statistics show that the rate of male suicide is growing. I was shocked to find out that over three-quarters of suicides are in men, and that suicide is now the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45 (ONS, 2014). Mental health charity Sane says that someone takes their own life every two hours - while an attempt is believed to be made every four minutes

The shocking data all suggests that, although men may be suffering from mental distress, they may not be receiving or indeed asking for any help. 

One of the reasons that suicide in men remains high is that men are prepared to take more risks than women - I guess in almost every area of their lives apart from when it comes to talking about themselves and their feelings.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I would find out how the men around me reacted to being asked about mental health.

I asked:

What would you do if you noticed a friend was particularly quiet or withdrawn, perhaps drinking more or working more than usual?

I had a variety of answers from “I don’t think I would particularly notice!” to “Yes, I would probably try and speak to them and might talk about when my own experiences have got on top of me.”

Most of the people I asked recognised that common triggers for symptoms could be stress at work or relationship problems. And most agreed they might find it difficult to bring the subject up, but would offer support if someone approached them.

The most common answer in terms of what suggestions they might make was a visit to the GP as a first port of call. No-one suggested counselling as a good place to resolve issues - even though it’s free and readily accessible to RICS members through LionHeart

If you found yourself feeling out of sorts would you keep it to yourself or would you find some support?

Most respondents definitely fell into the ‘keep it to yourself’ camp. Answers included “I would keep it to myself and hope that it either passed or went away,” and “I would probably keep it to myself until they became so big they spilled over.”

Only one answer agreed that talking about problems was a helpful way to resolve them.

It seems to me from my straw poll that there is still some way to go in reducing the stigma attached to talking about mental health, particularly among men. 

Clearly, the problems exist - no matter how much we might wish that wasn’t true - and we all have a part to play in reducing this stigma and beginning to change the impact of mental health issues.

The effects of sticking to old adages - keep a stiff upper lip, boys don’t cry - could be devastating.

Could you make a start today by asking a friend or colleague how they are? 

  • Free counselling is available to RICS members and their families through LionHeart, and can help with many issues. Why not contact us today?

Men and mental health: Useful links

Men’s Health Forum 

Sane 

Calm 

Time to Change: Why is it hard for men to talk about mental health problems 

TASC The Alliance of Suicide Prevention Charities 

Joanne Tucker is a counsellor for LionHeart and is based in Buckinghamshire.

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