In recent years there has been a concentrated effort to raise awareness of the effects and causes of mental health. Public campaigns and celebrities sharing their struggles with mental health have become common and as a society, mental health is more recognised than it has ever been. However, men's mental health is still very stigmatised and there is an unwillingness from men to seek help. Here we will try to break down the various reasons for this reluctance and what needs to change to address this problem.
What are the statistics?
Over 700,000 people commit suicide each year with men taking the majority of this number. In the UK men are 3 times more likely to take their own life compared to women. In the United States, it increases to 3.6 times more likely. All over the world men are more likely to commit suicide with men over 45 the most likely to commit suicide.
What is causing these problems?
These statistics are proof men's mental health is being ignored and highlights the importance of raising awareness and demolishing the stigma around mental health. Allocating men the resources needed and specifically tailoring help for their specific issues is desperately needed to help reduce these numbers.
A factor contributing to this stigma is traditional gender roles. Society has taught men to be self-reliant and strong. Seeking help can be seen as a weakness and to be avoided. This leads to men being reluctant to seek help, instead of trying to ignore it or find distractions. Additionally society views mental health as more of an issue affecting women. Infrastructure and campaigns are typically much more aimed at women, leaving men excluded a lot of the time. This obviously makes it harder for men to find adequate help when needed. It also reinforces the idea to the man that his issues are minor and do not require external help even when this is not the case.
Furthermore social media plays a major role in the increase of mental health issues for both men and women. Social media has connected everyone in a way that has never been seen before, and while this is great for socialising, keeping contact with friends and information sharing, it also encourages comparisons between yourself and others on social media. This is an unfair comparison as social media shows an idealised version of people's lives. However, people still compare themselves to these posts, causing mental health issues, as people will often feel they are not living this perfect life. Furthermore, social media can cause you to feel disconnected. Seeing posts of people with a better social life, for example, causes loneliness and disconnection as you again compare yourself to this.
What do we need to change?
Firstly we need to promote awareness and try to reduce the stigma. Raising awareness around men's mental health through campaigns and education in schools would be a good way to reverse the stigma in people at a young age. Furthermore, making men more comfortable and accepted when talking about mental health will go a long way toward helping mental health issues. Currently, men typically feel they do not have a voice or a place in mental health conversations. To improve this there should be an increased presence of men in public campaigns to show it is acceptable for guys to talk about how they feel.
Increase resources available to men. Currently, services catering to men's mental health are too scarce to make significant improvements to men's mental health and services available to them do not focus on male issues. Helplines and therapists specifically tailored towards men-specific issues will improve the effectiveness and helpfulness of these services and will therefore have a greater impact on addressing men's issues. The accessibility of these services also needs to be increased, if finding the right help is hard then there is more chance that men will stop looking for it and then not receive the help they need. Everyone should have access to support when needed.
Additionally, we need to promote activities that improve mental health. Promoting sports and exercise and their benefits like improved mood, reduction of stress, anxiety and depression, increased energy levels and improves sleep. Improved sleep helps mental health on its own as well, improved mood and a reduction of stress are two of the best benefits of increased sleep. Healthy eating is another simple way to improve mental health. A balanced diet provides you with a range of nutrients and vitamins that improve moods. B vitamins and omega 3 boost moods and reduces anxiety. Promoting the benefits of these activities and tips on how to manage mental health would be a cost-effective and simple way of helping mental health issues.
NHS link for help on mental health: