GLOBALLY ON AVERAGE ONE MAN DIES BY SUICIDE EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY
As you can see from that startling statistic above, it’s not an exaggeration to say that men’s mental health is in crisis. Men are more likely to suffer with mental health problems and less likely to seek help with them. In this week’s blog we focus on what some of the reasons might be for this, and what you can do to help the men around you.
Men’s mental health – the facts
The statistics surrounding men and mental health are quite stark. In October 2021 the Mental Health Foundation reported that in the UK:
- Three times as many men as women die by suicide.
- Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK.
- Lower levels of life satisfaction were reported by men compared to women according to the Government’s national wellbeing survey.
- Men are less likely to access therapy with 36% of NHS mental health referrals for talking therapies being for men.
- It’s more likely that men will go missing, sleep rough or become addicted to drugs and alcohol.
- Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under 50. In 2017 Great Britain recorded 6,000 suicides of which 75% were men.
What we all need
We all have basic emotional needs. If our needs are balanced and being met well, we will be in good emotional health and will be thriving. If, however one of our needs is not being well met then we can suffer with physical and mental illness. Our nine essential emotional needs are:
- Security, i.e., a safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully.
- Attention, both giving and receiving.
- Sense of autonomy and control and the responsibility to make choices.
- Feeling part of a wider community.
- Emotional intimacy, to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are.
- Having privacy.
- Sense of status within social groupings.
- A sense of competence and achievement.
- Having meaning and purpose.
MOVEMBER – Focus on Men’s mental health
Movember is a UK based charity specifically focused on men’s health and wellbeing. The charity was set up in 2003 and concentrates on three key areas to support men and reduce premature deaths. The three areas are (1) Mental Health & Suicide prevention, (2) Testicular Cancer and (3) Prostate Cancer.
Movember looks specifically at the mental health factors through a male lens. It focuses on prevention, early intervention and health promotion. If you would like to know more about the charity, please visit their site here.
Why is men’s mental health in crisis?
Men need the same as women, to be heard and understood, and to get their emotional needs met. However, the barriers to this can be that men, for various reasons often don’t find it easy to get their needs met well. And in a world where there is greater fluidity between the roles of each gender, it may be that many men are struggling to know what their place is. Traditionally men find it harder to express their feelings, not all of course, and this can mean that they don’t examine their feelings or realise when they are beginning to struggle. As humans living busy lives, it can mean that there is less social interaction. A sense of community and status within that community is especially essential for men.
Societal pressure can mean that some men don’t feel comfortable asking for help or admitting that they are struggling. Certainly, things are better than they were, but the more people can talk freely about their mental health the easier it will become.
Let’s ‘CARE’ for men and their mental health
There is no one size all to resolving mental health issues. Treatment and prevention need to be adapted on an individual basis. However, the following acronym CARE, is a good framework to look at:
CARE= Conversations,Activities, Roles, Education
Talking is a fantastic way to help everyone focus on their wellbeing and stay in good mental health. Talking to someone is not a sign of weakness, it can help someone make sense of an issue that is troubling them. It can help someone gain a new perspective. It can help someone feel supported, loved and cared for.
The Movember charity have developed a great tool named ALEC.The tool assists with having difficult conversations with a male family member or friend. ALEC stands forAsk, Listen, Encourage and Check in.The tool helps with prompts and ideas to give you the confidence to talk to the men in your life.
Here are 5 tips we recommend to help you have that important conversation!
Trust your instincts
A common response to ‘how are you?’ will often be ‘I am fine, thank you’. If you think they are not fine then do not be afraid to ask again. Alternatively, you can gently push them to be more specific about how they are feeling. Use open questions that don’t just require a yes or a no, that gives them room to find their way in the conversation.
Judging someone for feeling or behaving a certain way is almost certainly going to result in them not opening up. They may become defensive or aggressive. To ensure a good open and honest conversation try and be non-judgemental.
Compassion & Empathy
Providing the person with some empathy really helps them to relax and feel like you understand what they are going through. For example, if they say they are feeling stressed, juggling work and family commitments, try acknowledging that you have similar difficulties. But make sure you don’t get into too much detail about your scenario though. Remember you are trying to get them to talk not to get them to listen to your problems.
Do not feel you have fill in silences with words or advice, instead listen to what they have to say. This may be enough for them to feel supported; they may not actually need any advice. Sometimes just articulating how you feel is enough to help you see a way forward.
After having the initial conversation, you may think they need some professional support. Broach this subject gently and suggest that they might find it beneficial to talk to someone who is an outsider in their life, where they can express how they feel about anything and everything.
Getting involved in physical activities can help improve mental health. Sport and fitness can make you feel good by boosting your self esteem and help you feel better. Getting involved in team or community activities can help you with being part of a community. This can create a sense of status or belonging. You may find people who are into similar interests as yourself and allows you to make more companions or friendships.
Traditional male gender roles and societal expectations can impact on men’s mental health. Men are often expected to be strong and dominant and to be the main breadwinner and support their family. These expectations can make it more difficult for men to open up about their feelings. They may not want to show vulnerability or weaknesses. They may feel their friends will mock them if they discuss certain issues which are troubling them. Men may turn to coping mechanisms such as overworking, alcohol or drugs to alleviate the pressures they are feeling.
It is important that society as a whole accepts men have emotions and feelings. Men are human too and need support just as much as women.
Educating men on their own wellbeing starts when they are young. Schools will generally have some form of wellbeing program. They will usually focus on teaching adolescents how to become healthy young adults. There will be elements of mental wellbeing care. There are also some schemes which specifically teach boys how to become a man. They focus on the situations they may have to navigate as they get older.
There is a lot of information available online and via social media. Please be careful if using online sources to educate yourself or someone else. There is also a lot of misinformation and bad advice available.
Many sport associations such as football, rugby or boxing which are primarily male run schemes focussed on supporting mental health. Prince William and his mental health trust have been doing a lot of work with the FA. The BBC aired a documentary of this in 2020.
Alongside educating children on mental health we need to work towards normalising conversations on this area. If you have male friends or family members ask them how they are and make these types of discussions normal.
Getting some help
We offer practical and solution focused approaches to many mental health problems. As a very logical type of therapy that works with the way our brains naturally work it can feel more approachable and less ‘touchy feely’ than traditional therapy. We have helped many people to overcome their difficulties and to move forward with their lives. Please contact us to discuss how we can help you or someone you know who needs support.
I hope you have found this information helpful, as always if you know of someone who would benefit from reading it, then please share. Why not head over to our website for more information and downloads.
With warmest wishes