Statistics show that women are twice more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men, yet men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women. According to the Mental Health Foundation, men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men. I often reflect on why men are more likely to reach crisis point than women, plus how medical services and us as a society can help encourage more men to seek help, because very clearly more needs to be done.
Mental health is such a complex issue and there are many factors that can lead someone to mental ill-health, but why are so few men accessing help? What are the barriers and I wonder what can we do to help our menfolk come forward? It's a mammoth task to solve but individually I believe we can all play a part in normalising mental health by talking to each other and being more honest about how we are feeling. We can reassure each other there is no shame in seeking help and that it shows real strength to take action. I suspect stigma continues to be a huge barrier. Women are often stigmatised by stereotypical views on how they should look, feel or behave, but men are also barraged with damaging stigma too. Men are often expected to be strong, in control and somehow expressing feelings is deemed as a weakness. Being told to 'man up' is an often bantered expression but one that carries much weight and reinforces the stigma that men should 'pull themselves together and just get on with it.' Sadly, the statistics show that approach isn't helpful.
To the men I have supported this year with mental health first aid, I can see a difference in attitudes towards mental health between the younger and older generations, which I find really encouraging and positive for the future. Hopefully, the tide is turning and with more and more high profile men sharing their mental health stories, the stigma is being smashed. However, with the most at risk for suicide age group being men in the 40-49yrs age bracket, we need to be checking in on our fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, friends and partners more. Have you noticed someone hasn't been themselves lately? If so, why not fix a time now for a chat. Maybe share something of yourself with them to help them open up?
Not being a guy myself, I really wanted to hear about mental health from a guy's perspective. In this first Mindful Musings Podcast, I chat with Andy Pike, a health coach at Pike Performance, about men's mental health, his own mental health journey and his top tips for maintaining positive wellbeing.
Below are some amazing organisations where men can open up in safe, non-judgemental space:
Calm short for Calm Against Living Miserably offers multiple services to help men suffering from their mental health. Their frontline service includes a helpline and webchat for people who need to talk urgently about their problems.
MenSpeak Men's Groups - Creating spaces for men to hang out, be heard and get real.
Men's Sheds Association - Community spaces for men to connect, converse and create.
MATES - A safe community where you can openly speak about your mental health
If you are in crisis, please don't delay and reach out to your crisis team or dial 999.