Men and mental health: it’s good to talk

During Movember, men throughout the world are encouraged to grow a moustache to raise awareness for men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention.

For instance, did you realise that 78 percent of suicides in the UK are carried out by men? According to the Movember Foundation, that’s the equivalent of 13 men taking their life every day in this country.

And now a report commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation suggests much more needs to be done to encourage men with mental health challenges to get help. The survey discovered that 28 percent of men had not sought medical help for the last mental health problem they experienced, compared with 19 percent of women.

Not just that, but men with a mental health problem are also less likely to tell friends and family when a problem develops. The survey found that…

  • 25 percent of men disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or loved one within a month, compared with 33 percent of women.
  • 35 percent of men waited more than two years or have never disclosed a mental health problem to a friend or family member compared with 25 percent of women.

Learning to share

“Mental health is so central to our experience of being alive that if we’re ever to rise to challenge of preventing mental health problems, it will be because men feel more able to share when they are vulnerable,” says Mark Rowland, director of communications and fundraising at the Mental Health Foundation.

“This is not about being more of a man but being more in touch with our humanity. It takes real courage to be open and honest about mental health, but when suicide is the leading cause of death for young men, we all have a responsibility to push for cultural change.”

Dave Chawner is a 27-year-old comedian who lived with anorexia and depression for 10 years before seeking support. “I think it’s important to talk about gender when we talk about mental health, because the way we’re expected to deal with things is different,” he says.

“It is more accepted for men to deal with stress, emotions and situations with anger and aggression. Anything else is interpreted as vulnerability and shut down.

“It’s so important that a reluctance to seek help isn’t mistaken for a lack of severity, especially when it comes to men. Men are more likely to say something like ‘I’m feeling a bit shit’ when really they mean, this is the worst I’ve ever felt in my life and I can’t imagine feeling worse.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties with mental health, there’s lots of really useful information on the Mental Health Foundation website.

For more information about Movember, including what’s happening throughout the month and how you can get involved, visit uk.movember.com.

• Also read our article on Ways to keep your prostate healthy.