Why is the Relationship Between Men and Mental Health So Important?
Mental health affects us all – we all have it, just as we all have physical health. Think of mental health as temperature – a constant presence and something we all experience. However, it is a constant that fluctuates and can be hot, cold, mild and anything in between.
1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health problem, each year, in England alone. Each year, around 1 in 8 men experience a common mental health problem – such as anxiety or depression. It is vital that we understand men and their mental health by debunking societal myths and learning how to support them.
In this article, we will discuss men’s mental health and why it is so important, why men often don’t talk about their mental health, tips on looking after yourself and those you know, as well as exploring the importance of International Men’s Day in light of such a vital topic.
Why is Men’s Mental Health Important?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. Of the suicides reported in 2020/21, three-quarters were men. These chilling statistics have been the case since the mid-1990s.
Everyone experiences mental health and will likely face mental health problems at some point in their life and it’s important to take all cases seriously. However, just a brief look over statistics, or even into media and society, highlights the importance of talking about men’s mental health. There are many different types of mental ill health that people can be affected by and understanding some key signs and symptoms can be a great help in understanding what many people experience. To learn more take a look at our article, here.
Suicide is the largest cause of death for males under 50 and unpacking this, as well as many other distressing statistics is vital in helping men through mental health struggles. Thus, the importance of men’s mental health is prevalent now more than ever and for a multitude of reasons, such as:
- Societal pressure. There is often tremendous pressure on men to withdraw and not speak up when they are struggling with their mental health. We will look into this in more depth later on in the article.
- Signs of mental health. Whilst mental health will present itself to the individual in, often similar, symptoms – the way in which people present signs of mental health problems can vary drastically. This difference is particularly seen in men and women, with some men exhibiting angry or aggressive behaviours which may often be dismissed.
- Cases of mental health. As we have touched on already, statistics for men who experience mental health problems are high, and this doesn’t account for all those who do not speak up – which we know is also a large number.
- Suicide rates. Samaritans reported that, of the 5219 people who died by suicide in 2021,15.8% per 100,000, were men.
Some who suffer from mental health problems may self-medicate and men may be more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with stress, depression or anxiety – rather than talking about it.
Although a common trait of those experiencing troubles with their mental health is to shut off and not talk about how they are feeling, this is especially common in men and a dangerous reason as to why many struggle so much.
Why Men Don’t Talk About Their Mental Health
Unfortunately, a huge reason behind the thousands of people, particularly men, who suffer in silence is societal stigma and pressure. Expectations and traditionally prescribed gender roles that are still influential today, generations after their formation, lead many men to believe that they cannot, and should not, speak up when they are struggling with their mental health.
Some reasons why these beliefs still exist may include:
- Feeling they must conform to traditional gender stereotypes such as ‘men don’t cry’.
- Men may also feel they need to be viewed as strong, dominant and in control of their emotions.
All such factors can become suffocating. Some people may naturally shut down and not express their feelings. Pressures inflicted by society push down on this tenfold, damaging people’s views from a young age.
This notion that men should not talk about their feelings can also be damaging in other, more outward, ways. Some research suggests that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves and others. Here, they may be less likely to reach out for support or may not be able to recognise underlying symptoms in their peers.
Debunking many of these societal myths is a step in unravelling the unjust gender stereotypes that often still prevail on a day-to-day basis. We have listed some common myths below and unpacked them.
- Myth: Men are less likely to experience struggles with their mental health.
- Fact: Superficially, men may often present as though they are not struggling with mental health. But the truth is you never know who may be struggling with mental health problems – it can affect anyone – any gender, age, race or sexual orientation.
- Myth: Unlike women, men are good at managing their emotions.
- Fact: An ugly, baseless gender stereotype, that harmfully impacts all involved. This notion harmfully impacts men as it perpetuates the idea that holding in their emotions, internally, will allow them to be viewed as strong. We must encourage everyone – particularly young boys and men – to talk about their feelings.
- Myth: Men don’t need to seek help for their mental health.
- Fact: This may be largely connected to the pressure on men to not speak up when they are struggling. They may not want to be seen as ‘weak’ – but seeking help is far from that. It takes courage and strength and can provide huge guidance.
Looking to Learn More?
Our Mental Health Awareness Course aims to increase your understanding of common mental health conditions and of your own mental health, including how or when it might suffer, and what you can do about it.
The stigma around mental health is one of the greatest challenges we face. To debunk more myths about mental health, take a look at our article here.
Facilitating open conversation is key to breaking down these societal barriers. In fact, more and more in recent years are we starting to see great role models coming forward and being honest about their mental health. Figures such as Roman Kemp, Stormzy and even the likes of royalty, Prince Harry have spoken up about their experiences and struggles with mental ill-health. All such conversations are vital in encouraging others to do the same and showing them that they aren’t alone.
How to Facilitate a Conversation Around Mental Health
Encouraging conversations around mental health may often be the first step in breaking down barriers. However, this can be a challenge and often easier said than done.
If you are concerned for someone you know, or simply wish to check in on a more regular basis consider approaching the conversation with the following guidance:
- A first step to take can be to simply reach out. A text message, phone call or 10-minute conversation over a coffee. A conversation about mental health doesn’t need to feel formal or critical. A conversation with loved ones is certainly a good place to start.
- Understand that you do not need to be a trained expert to talk to someone about their mental health. Opening doors to conversations is simply the first step in helping those close to you. Of course, professional help should be sought out in cases where treatment and assessment are concerned.
- Actively listen, try not to interrupt and avoid generalised clichés. Remember that you are talking about mental health with this person and if they decide to open up, let them.
For more information on how to talk to people about their mental health take a look at our article, here.
Tips on Looking After Your Mental Health
There are many preventative measures you can take to look after your mental health, just as you would with your physical health.
Below we have listed eight ways to look after mental health and wellbeing:
- Be open and talk about your mental health – the good and the bad.
- Keep as active as you can – even one or two short bursts of getting outside a day can be beneficial.
- Eat well – nourish your body. Enjoy a well-rounded and balanced diet.
- Keep in touch with loved ones, even if it is just a message or phone call.
- Seek help when you need it – from those around you, or via helplines such as Samaritans, SANEline, National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK and Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).
- Care for others, and keep relationships strong – just as you would want others to do with you.
- Find something you enjoy doing – it could be cooking, art, a team sport – anything you love.
- Practice mindfulness – pay attention to the present moment. Try not to dwell on the past or future.
Mental health does not have one set meaning. Rarely will two people’s experiences of it look the same. Because of this, it is important to understand that what works for one person, may not work for you or someone else. It is important to only try what feels comfortable and give yourself time to figure out what is right for you, there is little point in forcing yourself into a certain routine simply because you have been told to, or because it worked for a friend. Take some time to work out what routine and actions make you feel better.
Positive mental wellbeing doesn’t mean you’re always happy or unaffected by your experiences – we are all human and experience emotions differently. However, mental ill health and wellbeing can make it more difficult to cope with daily life.
International Men’s Day
International Men’s Day aims to offer a worldwide celebration of the positive value that men bring to the world, their families and communities. The day seeks to highlight positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being.
Celebrating International Men’s Day is important because it acts as a catalyst for starting essential conversations about men’s mental health. Formed by Dr Jerome Tuluck Singh to commemorate his father’s birthday, the day was first celebrated in 1999, in Trinidad and Tobago. The day is now widely celebrated across 80 countries to raise awareness of the physical and mental struggles that many men face. The spotlight is placed on positive male role models, raising awareness of men’s health and wellbeing.
In 2022, it was celebrated on the 19th of November and the theme was ‘Helping Men and Boys’. The celebration coincides with the yearly event of ‘Movember’, which sees people growing moustaches and raising money to support men’s mental health and wellbeing across the globe.
You can get involved any time of year by visiting the International Men’s Day website, where they offer a range of resources, talks and contacts to use for yourself or your loved ones.
We hope you found this article useful and encourage you to check in on the men in your life – no matter the time of year. The importance of encouraging men to talk about their mental health is paramount. Events such as International Men’s Day can help raise awareness of men’s mental wellbeing and are an excellent resource to use.
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