What is happening to men in our society, our workplaces, and our homes that means they are struggling so much? These statistics highlight the scale of the issue:
Three times as many men as women die by suicide
Men aged 40 to 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
Men report lower levels of life satisfaction than women, according to the Government’s national well-being survey
Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men
The stigma around MH, especially men’s MH means the numbers are probably higher as they hide their challenges. Statistics also do not tell individual stories, all those moments of pain and anguish. All those times pretending to be ok, putting on the mask, and not being able, to be honest with themselves or those around them.
As with anything within MH the reasons behind these statistics are complex and varied but we can highlight a few themes which resonate with many individual stories.
“Man up”- this perpetuates the myth that it is weak to share feelings and means men may not have learned emotional literacy
Men still often feel they are head of the family and hold all the financial worries in uncertain times. They need to provide for their family, so if they lose their job, etc it can feel like a “failure”
·Men tend to isolate or put the false front on when struggling rather than sharing with friends, and family or accessing professional support.
Alcohol, drugs, or other distractions are used as coping strategies, which just worsens already challenging situations.
How can we begin to change this narrative?
Talk, share, educate and do it again on repeat. Individuals, workplace cultures and society can all change, but it takes concerted effort, it takes people standing up to stigma and discrimination, and a drip-feed approach to talking about MH.
When I say stigma and discrimination, I mean dispelling those myths of “Man Up”, weak to share feelings, etc. It is not strong to stay silent when you are struggling, strength is when you reach out and share your feelings and ask for help.
It is not strong to laugh about MH and be part of the group making fun of someone. Strength is when you reach out to that person and ask if they want to talk.
It is not strong to dismiss others’ feelings, it is strong to listen and be there for someone.
Do we want to live in a society where we are losing so many men to suicide, or so many are struggling to cope? I’m sure we don’t, we can change this, and all do our part. The culture around MH will only change when individuals and workplaces decide they want a different outcome for men.
Start today with simple steps to bring about change:
Share about times you have struggled- to let others know it is ok not to be ok
If you have concerns about someone reach out, you don’t have to be an expert, just a friend who cares and listens.
Educate yourself- the more you know about MH the easier it will feel to challenge stigma, and reach out for conversations.
Challenge inappropriate language or behaviours
Link to awareness raising days to normalise talking about mental health
Encourage people, especially in senior positions to share stories of their struggles.
Share MH information, top tips, etc, make it visual.
Train managers in mental health awareness and listening skills
Offer support & skills to all to understand MH
If you are struggling, is there someone you trust to talk to? You might be surprised how receptive people are if you take that leap and open up. If that feels too hard, you could start with a helpline or text support- maybe CALM or Shout or Samaritans
If we all commit to taking one action from today just think of the difference, we could make – I would love to hear about your actions – sharing with each other as a community is also an act of change.