Why is men’s mental health an important topic?
We know there are some specific trends and challenges related to male mental health. In England, men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women. Men aged between 40 and 49 are the most likely to take their own life. Men are also less likely to access psychological therapy compared to women, with men accounting for only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies. And research shows that men are more likely to turn to harmful coping mechanisms, such as using alcohol or drugs to cope.
By talking about these trends, we can encourage more men to be open about their feelings and access support. We also need to recognise that people of other genders may relate to these issues too. If you are transgender, non-binary or intersex, see the end of this article for details of organisations you may find helpful.
What mental health issues do men have?
Men may have mental health issues related to a number of things, such as:
- traditional gender roles
- workplace stress
- money worries
- body image
On gender roles, Caroline Harper, Specialist Mental Health Nurse, says: “Traditionally, men have been expected to be less expressive about their emotions. Within families, some men may see themselves as the main provider or ‘breadwinner’, and then feel stress or pressure at trying to live up to that without help. In reality, we know that everyone – regardless of their gender – needs a support network and an outlet for difficult emotions.
“In a friendship group, there might be one or two people who are quite happy to show their emotions and talk about mental health. But that group may include others who look down on that, and who may be quite critical towards those people. They might use unhelpful phrases like ‘man up’ and ‘just get on with it’. It can take a lot for somebody to open up about how they’re feeling, so to be shut down by someone you think of as a close friend can feel very difficult and isolating.”
Becoming a father is also a life event that Caroline highlights as being more difficult than you might realise. “Post-natal depression in women is recognised more widely than it was in the past, but feeling depressed after a child is born can happen to fathers too. Having conversations with your partner about looking after each other, and yourself, while you’re also looking after your new baby, is so important.”
Work-related stress can be a problem for men too. Research from Mind suggests that work-related issues cause twice as many mental health problems for men, compared to factors outside of work. Shafique Lallmahomed, GP Liaison Officer at Cromwell Hospital, is a trained mental health first aider and works to support workplace mental health. Shafique says: “There are many reasons men don’t talk about mental health. These might include: ‘I’ve learned to deal with it’, ‘I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone’, or ‘I don’t want to admit I need support.’ I’ve definitely picked one of those reasons before. But in becoming a mental health first aider at work, I’ve really learned about the importance of opening up. It means being ready to have supportive conversations with my workmates when they might be struggling.”
What can help men’s mental health?
It could help your mental health to:
- talk with friends, family members or colleagues who you trust
- talk with your GP – they may recommend talking therapies
- exercise and spend time in nature
- find a sense of achievement and satisfaction in hobbies, or everyday activities you enjoy that provide an outlet for stress
On finding outlets for stress, Shafique says: “One of the things that has helped me is the stress bucket concept. First you write down your stresses in life – for me that can include everyday work and relationships. Then you have to put your outlets: how are you relieving the stress? It can be different things for anyone. For me, I like travelling and photography – but I really believe everyone must have an outlet to relieve their stress on a weekly basis. The ‘stress bucket’ concept visualises this as a bucket with a tap, with stress flowing into the bucket, but the tap (your outlets or coping mechanisms) working to relieve that pressure. If you don’t have an outlet for relieving the stress, it can create problems”
Download this stress bucket graphic and mindfulness exercise from the Cromwell Hospital (PDF, 280KB).
Men’s health support organisations
Organisations that can support with men’s mental health include:
Caroline also recommends looking out for local support groups. “Great examples of these include Andy’s Man Club and also Men In Sheds for older men.”
If you are transgender, intersex or non-binary, you may also relate to the issues covered here. You might find it helpful to access support through LGBTQ+ support organisations such as Mind Out and the LGBT Foundation.