Men’s mental health has become an important topic over the past decade. With 3 out of 4 suicides by men under 35 years of age, poor mental health in the male population has become a pressing issue for health experts across the country.
Shawmind is an early intervention charity. We help equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to look after their mental health. Due to the social constructs of masculinity, many men struggle to come forward with their mental health issues and seek help. In this article, we will be discussing some common mental health problems men face. We will also discuss ways in which men can improve their mental health.
Understanding men’s mental health
As understood by the Oxford Dictionary, ‘mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being’. This is not to be confused with mental illness, which is described by the NHS as ‘an illness that affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others’.
Poor mental health can have physiological implications. If left untreated, poor mental health can lead to higher levels of stress hormones in the body. This has a snowball effect, and can lead to excessive weight gain, heart problems, a low immune system and more.
If poor mental health is left untreated for too long, it can lead to much larger issues. Anxiety and depression can lead to complex mental health disorders such as substance abuse or suicide.
Common symptoms of poor mental health include:
- Extreme mood changes
- Social withdrawal
- Sleep problems
- Feelings of anxiety and dread
- Feelings of sadness
Whether you’re a man or woman experiencing these feelings, it is important to seek help. For many men, it may seem difficult to seek emotional help because you may feel that it is a sign of failure or weakness on your part, but this is untrue. It is important to speak to someone. You can speak to a professional, trusted colleague, friend or family member. Whatever you feel comfortable with!
The current state of men’s mental health
The statistics around men’s mental health are a cause for concern. According Mental Health Foundation in the UK:
- Men are 3x more likely to die of suicide than women.
- Men have lower levels of life satisfaction than women.
- Men are more likely to sleep rough, abuse substances and alcohol and go missing.
- Men aged 40-49 have highest suicide rates.
- Men are less likely to seek psychological therapy than women, taking only 36% of referrals.
So why don’t men seek mental health help?
Society is full of dangerous gender stereotypes that put men and women in social cages. The feminist movement and the men’s mental health movement work towards destigmatising gender norms that can hold us back.
In society, men are expected to be strong, stoic breadwinners who are always emotionally independent and in control. Carrying this burden can become tiresome, and never seeking emotional help can lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
Oftentimes, men can feel embarrassed or demasculinised if they speak to anyone about their emotional struggles. However, the men’s mental health movement is working towards breaking down stigmas surrounding the mental wellbeing of men, encouraging them to speak up and speak out about this silent killer.
What can men do to improve their mental health?
We can often pick up bad habits throughout our lives. From not sleeping enough to eating junk, these habits can negatively impact our mental balance.
The brain needs social interaction, exercise and nutrition so it can produce the right hormones to keep itself and the body functioning at an optimum level. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to improve your mental health.
- Cutting out junk and eating a healthy diet
- Sleeping the recommended hours for your age
- Self-care to reduce stress, such as meditation and relaxation
- Taking up new hobbies and old ones
- Socialising with friends and family
- Making time for yourself
Speaking to friends, family or colleagues
Although it may seem daunting at first, speaking to someone can be extremely beneficial. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable around. Speaking to someone can take the weight off your shoulders and make your emotional load feel lighter.
Seek professional help
If you’re experiencing mental health problems, speak to your GP. They can refer you to a mental health expert who you can talk about mental health with. They can support you through your symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental health issues.
If you have the means, you can refer yourself to a mental health professional who will treat you privately.
Speaking to someone you know can be daunting and too vulnerable for some people. Also, some people may not have anyone to talk to within their immediate circle. A mental health professional can gain a holistic understanding of your life, your issues, and your lifestyle, and they will have no ‘agenda’ other than to see your mental health improve and you become the best version of yourself.
Multiple sessions can allow for your therapist to understand your issues, and can give curated advice that meets your needs and your lifestyle.
Speak to your employer
Many industries are waking to the issues of mental health in society. To encourage a healthy work environment and ensure good overall health for their employees, many employers have a designated HR specialist trained in mental health, or trained Mental Health First Aiders in several different departments within the business. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that provides free mental health support
Ask your employer if they have a service like this available. It can be beneficial and convenient to speak to someone in the workplace, and see what men’s mental health resources are available.
Many people also don’t know that it is a legal right in the UK to take a sick day for mental health reasons. If you’re needing a day to yourself for mental health reasons, be sure to speak to your employer and take a sick day.
Sometimes we need a break from life and adult expectations. Take a day off to focus on self care and looking after your mental health.
Male mental health is an important issue. To get men talking, and raise awareness about mental health, we encourage you to seek professional help if you are experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts or any other mental health condition.
Shawmind is an early intervention charity, aiming to equip people with the knowledge they need to prevent the next generation from a mental health crisis and support those who need mental health help. Download our FREE Male Mental Health Guide or check out or Headucation programmes today.