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MENtal Health - Why is it Overlooked?

What is mental health?

Mental health disorders are becoming increasing common in the UK, and are medical issues that affect a person's cognitive, emotional and relational health, disrupting daily functioning.

There are several factors that have been recognised as contributing the such conditions:

  • Family History,

  • Trauma and Abuse,

  • Substance Abuse,

  • Unhealthy Lifestyle,

  • And most commonly, stress.

Mental health can also help determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Are mental health problems increasing?

Within the UK alone, demand for mental health related services have increased by 56% since 2020. Meaning services and help is rapidly increase and pressure is rising for the NHS to provide certain services and offer treatments.

The overall number of people reporting mental health problems has been going up in recent years.

  • The amount of people with common mental health problems went up by 20% between 1993 to 2014, in both men and women.

  • The percentage of people reporting severe mental health symptoms in any given week rose from 7% in 1993, to over 9% in 2014.

  • The reports that the number of young women reporting common mental health problems has been going up.

However, mental health problems in men are increasing significantly yet there is still a stigma.

Mental health in men

Mental health in men often goes undiagnosed as they often self-stigmatise, and many are embarrassed to admit to themselves or others that they may have a problem. This often makes it harder for them to ask for help from their GP, friends or family.

Research found that men are considerably less likely to seek support when they were worried or feeling low for more than a couple weeks. While reasons for this may be complex, traditional masculine values such as self-reliance are likely to play a role, with talking about mental health seen as a weakness.

  • Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35.

  • 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders

  • 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

  • According to Men's Health Forum, men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals are men.

Why do men avoid getting help?

There can be a number of reasons why anyone would avoid reaching out for help with their mental health but, why is it typically men?

From childhood, boys are told to keep quiet about their emotions and that men do not typically discuss their emotions. This can create a forced feeling to confirm with society expectations and to avoid becoming an 'outsider,'

in 2019, 10% of men said that the fear of being told they were mentally ill would likely stop them seeking help, compared to 6% of women believing this. Stigma presents an additional barrier to seeking help and stigmatising attitudes and behaviours are more pronounced among men.

Men are also less knowledgeable about mental health and hold more negative attitudes. They are far less likely to report their own experiences with poor mental health or discuss their problems with a professional. This is due to most boys being taught from a young age to, 'man-up' causing a pressure to overlook their problems and find their own solutions.

What would make it easier to seek help?

When it comes to seeking advice and support, everyone has preferences. Men typically prefer different methods to woman when seeking help such as:

  • Alternatives to medication, some men would prefer other methods such as, face-to-face therapy, online therapy, physical activity and peer support.

  • Coping mechanisms, men are more likely to use unhealthy coping mechanisms when feeling low including, alcohol and smoking. Giving men access tp healthier options such as, support groups, would aid them in receiving help from others without any stigma or judgement.

  • More discussion on the subject, this would help normalise and encourage men to speak out. Knowing their problems are normal can help begin conversations between friends or family, without having to worry about stigma.


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