Saturday 19th November was International Men’s Day - a day all about celebrating the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities.
On this day we highlight positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being.
The theme for International Men's Day 2022 was “Helping Men and Boys”.
One very important way we can help men and boys, is to support them to experience better mental health – not just on awareness days like International Men’s Day – every day.
12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
As with many mental health statistics, it’s hard to know if the figures fully represent what is happening. They can only tell us about mental health problems that have been reported – many cases may go undiagnosed.
The reality is that many, many more men are experiencing symptoms of common mental health disorders like depression and anxiety; and they are not seeking help or support- they are struggling silently.
All the evidence suggests that men find it hard to talk about mental health.
So, some other statistics, that help build a clearer picture as to men’s experience of mental health:
Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35
Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women
Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men.
Source: Mental Health Foundation
Why do men find it hard to talk about mental health?
There are two main reasons that men sometimes find it hard to talk about mental health – stigma and societal expectations.
Nine in ten people with mental health issues say that discrimination and stigma are the main reasons they fear seeking help with their mental health.
Men may fear seeking mental health support because of the stigma and discrimination they feel they are likely to receive from society, family members, and other loved ones.
The stigma is due mainly to the misinformation and lack of understanding of mental health and mental illness.
Many men say they avoid talking about their mental health issues for fear of being treated differently.
Because of stigma, people living with mental illness experience isolation and exclusion in life. It makes it harder for them to get employment, make friends, or live a normal life. Because of fear of this alienation, most men prefer to ignore mental health issues and remain silent, denying themselves the much-needed mental health treatment and support.
Societal expectations and gender stereotypes
Societal expectations about men and gender stereotypes are some risk factors that make it harder for men to discuss their mental health or seek support when they need it.
We know that gender stereotypes about women – ideas about how they should look, or behave, for example – can be damaging to them. It is equally important to understand that expectations and stereotypes can be very damaging to men.
Most societies support the idea that ‘big boys don’t cry’. Men are expected to be strong, stoical father figures whose work is to provide, and lead the family unit. While these stereotypes are not inherently bad, boys more often than not grow up with the idea that being emotional or needing mental health support is a sign of weakness.
Men grow up believing they have to be strong and silent throughout their lives, no matter what challenges they experience. This makes it hard for most men to accept that they are facing mental health challenges, never mind seek professional support or intervention.
When men are not able to openly talk about their thoughts, emotions and feelings, they are unable to acknowledge to themselves they are experiencing signs of mental ill health, making it even harder to reach out for support.
When faced with challenges that affect their mental health, men are more likely to take on harmful coping strategies like substance misuse, alcohol misuse, and other risk taking or dangerous behaviours to numb their pain.
Contact our team to find out how we can support you to create a psychologically safe workplace where men do feel safe to be themselves and to ask for help when they need it.