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Opening up about men's health

Awareness and attitudes around men's health is improving — helped by a growing number of celebrities, sports stars and everyday heroes talking more openly about their own health and wellbeing.

When successful sportsmen such as cricketer Ben Stokes1, and Olympic swimmer, Adam Peaty2, announced they were taking time out of their schedules to protect their mental wellbeing, it challenges the myth that poor mental health is sign of weakness.

There's more to do

But there is still a long way to go, as Peaty pointed out on social media, “Reading some of the comments in response to this [Peaty's announcement that he was taking a break] is why we have such a stigma around mental wellbeing in sport.”3

And there is no denying that we face an ongoing crisis around men's mental health, in particular.

Suicide

The statistics are shocking:4

  • Men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.
  • Men aged 40 to 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.
  • One in eight men has a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Men are far less likely to access therapy - only 36% of NHS referrals for talking therapies are made for men.

In 2019, the suicide rate in men was the highest recorded since 2000,5 and while the pandemic has not led to any increase in these deaths,6 the picture is still uncertain as there is evidence of rising mental distress, particularly among younger people.7

Trauma

And the pandemic has undoubtedly been traumatic, although trauma is a more subtle concept than we often realise. David Trickey a consultant psychologist and Co-Director of the UK Trauma Council explains that stress can turn into trauma when there is a disconnect in "meaning-making" and "the way you see yourself, the way you see the world, and the way you see other people" is overturned, by a stressful event — such as the pandemic. This disruption in our ability to make sense of events can spiral into trauma.8

For men, this sense of powerlessness associated with the pandemic might present additional challenges around gender-based perceptions and the need to be 'strong' and 'in control'.

These gender stereotypes also deter men from seeking help. There is still a misconception that poor mental health is 'incompatible' with traditional perceptions of masculinity, and that conditions such as depression, which impact emotional wellbeing, are intrinsically feminine.9

Action

"For a large organisation with large numbers of male employees on the road, we successfully encouraged more men to seek help using tailored stickers on their vehicle dashboards”, Lauren says.

Every workplace is unique, so carefully considering whether the message is right for the audience and how it's addressing their specific barriers can help.

Resources to support you

1 https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/30/england-and-wales-cricket-board-and-cricket-australia-set-for-key-talks-over-families-making-trip-to-ashes

2 https://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/58052874

3 https://www.skysports.com/olympics/news/15234/12370476/adam-peaty-dismayed-by-reaction-since-announcing-break-from-pool-to-prioritise-his-mental-health

4 https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health

5 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/male-suicide-rate-england-wales-covid-19

6 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanepe/article/PIIS2666-7762(21)00087-9/fulltext

7 https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/9/e040620

8 https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210203-after-the-covid-19-pandemic-how-will-we-heal

9 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.599039/full

10 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1557988319857009

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