Why men should talk about their mental health this Men’s Health Week
Hi, my name is Peter and I volunteer with HFEH Mind. I am really pleased to have an opportunity to write about men’s mental health for Men’s Health week. I wanted to research this subject a little further, as aside from my own perspective, I did not have a great deal of knowledge in this field.
The state of men’s mental health
What I found was worrying. 77% of men who responded to a Priory survey reported suffering with anxiety, stress, or depression. Day to day life pressures such as work, finance, and health were a major cause. In turn, their mental health had a negative impact on work performance and relationships.
One of the most shocking statistics showed that 40% of men polled said it would take thoughts of suicide and self-harm to compel them to seek professional help. That is too late. It is my belief that mental health should be treated like any other illness and as soon as symptoms develop, seek help.
Sadly, this information falls in line with recent male suicide statistics.
Men and suicide
To me, this information is mind blowing. The rate of male suicide in England and Wales in 2019 reached its highest level for two decades and men accounted for three-quarters of suicide deaths registered that year. Papyrus found that ‘the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK isn’t heart disease, cancer or kidney disease – it is in fact suicide’.
Why do men suffering from mental illness have difficulty in reaching out to others for help? Male pride? Fear of rejection?
What can be done about it? Is it a case of providing more services and further information to others? Being able to listen to others in their hour of need? Reducing stigma?
My mental health story
What I do know, is my own situation with mental illness and how it has developed. I have suffered from mental health issues since I was 15.
It took me a while to realise I had a problem. At the age of 20, my mental illness had a huge impact on my life. It affected my studies and personal life. I needed help. I reached out to my parents. We had a long discussion and booked an appointment with my doctors.
I was referred to mental health services by my GP and received a diagnosis within the same year. When I spoke to my friends about my problems and mental health diagnosis, they could not have been more understanding. I did not expect them to understand my situation but the fact they were taking time to listen to me and offer help was lovely.
I think many men believe their problems are uncommon, that other men don’t feel like they do, and that they should keep their feelings inside. This is unhealthy, and unnecessary. Talking is the first step to getting better.
Throughout the years I have been up and down. When I am unwell, I am able to reach out to others within my support network but obviously, that is not the case for everyone.
I wanted to make myself available to those who needed someone to talk to, and so recently I have become a facilitator for a mental health men’s group. Through my short time there, I have met some wonderful individuals who I now happily call friends. We discuss many topics in this group and more importantly we have a laugh. When needed, the group is there to listen and provide a safe space for others.
Conversations can range from TV, football, or current affairs, to mental health treatments and therapies. I am not saying this is a solution to all our problems with male mental health, but if we have more spaces for men to talk and be open with each other, this can only be a good thing.
How you can help
If you have a friend who seems quieter or more distant than normal, reach out to them. Let them know you are thinking about them, that you are available to them, and that they can come to you.
I hope you have found this piece insightful. Please spread the word. We all need to be kind and be prepared to offer an ear to others. Below, I have provided a list of charities and services that can help, and also some links for further reading. Thanks for taking the time to listen!
By Peter Flexman
HFEH Mind Volunteer
Resources for men worried about their mental health:
Mind – 0208 215 2243
The Samaritans – 116 123
Posted on: 18th June 2021