Mental health and men: it's time to talk
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and I wanted to look into one topic in particular: men’s mental health. It didn’t take long for me to realise just how big of an issue it is.
- 75% of suicides in the UK are men (ONS)
- 73% of missing adults are men (University of York)
- 83% of rough sleepers are men (Shelter)
- 95% of the prison population are men (House of Commons Library)
With stats like these, why don’t men get as much support as women?
Is it because men find it harder to open up? Or is it because men don’t have the opportunities to do so, or are silenced when they try?
Who can men turn to when they need some help?
This blog isn’t here to talk about why men suffer from mental health issues. I want to consider why once they’re suffering, men struggle to talk, and what can be done to provide more men with the support they need.
So, I asked men across DLG for their thoughts. These are just a handful of the responses I received, which I’ve kept anonymous.
Q1: What does mental health mean to men?
Treat your mind like your body
“I equate the health of my mind to the health of my body. My mind, just like my body, goes through periods where it needs help, rest, or physio.
“If I pulled a muscle or hurt my body, I’d go and get help. Why wouldn’t I do that when my mind needs help? It makes sense, but that’s the hardest thing to learn.”
There’s nothing wrong with different
“First off, nobody’s normal. We’re all unique. No two people’s opinions on mental health and wellbeing will be the same. We just need to recognise these differences as just that and embrace them, and stop stigmatising people for being that way.”
No two men think the same
“It’s hard to describe what it means to all men. From a personal experience of a friend who survived a suicide attempt, I have now come to accept that even with exactly the same background, two people may react differently to similar issues.”
Q2: Is it easy as a man to discuss mental health? If not why?
Finding your way alone
“Growing up in Nigeria, I was always reminded to “be a man, grin and bear it” etc. No help was given nor was there advice, so you tend to find your way by yourself.
“I think society expects you to find your way and decide what you want to do with your life. I had no idea and I felt lost. I think I struggled with the idea of not having a purpose, and I didn’t know who to talk to about it.”
The impact of upbringing
“It’s all about what you’ve been taught as normal. If you’ve been encouraged to take mental health seriously as part of your upbringing, then you’re more likely to recognise the importance of it.
“But, the idea of being open about mental health is generally not targeted to men, or at least not in a form that men resonate with.”
Q3: And finally, how do you feel about men’s mental health?
Feelings shouldn’t be a weakness
“I feel quite frustrated by the stereotype that men just need to get on with things, power on through, and that ‘feelings’ are a sign of weakness.”
The world is starting to change
“I like to think the world is evolving, and that men are happier to talk openly about their feelings without fear of being ostracised. But the reality is probably a long way from this.”
Expression is key
“I feel that the spotlight has been raised recently. It’s great that people like Prince William and Prince Harry are speaking out – it can only help. Being able to express whatever we have on our mind is important.”
There were many other responses, but one thing was clear, mental health doesn’t discriminate - it can affect anyone at any time. We need to look out for each other and ourselves.
I’ve been blown away by how much Digital has supported the work we’re doing on mental health. Men and women should always have the opportunity to talk and get support, and here, that opportunity is always available.